The value of an intranet in the practice
General practices are bombarded with information and the answer is to put together a practice intranet, says Dr Mark Smith
From the internet to the latest edict from your PCT, from the clinic or referral centre form to the midwife's new mobile number, we are experiencing information overload.
Making do with a folder or drawer filled with circulated photocopies of the relevant memo, referral guidelines and fax-able forms is not an efficient system.
So three years ago I put together an intranet on our server to store everything we need in the practice.
An intranet is a private internet confined to an organisation. With all your forms, phone numbers, favourite weblinks, protocols and guidelines in one place in an electronic format, you can easily find them and click on them.
You can do this from any of your network PCs. Make an alteration to the intranet – say, a new form or a new phone number – and everyone else is up to date automatically and can find the relevant information straight away.
Making an intranet
One way to make an intranet is to pay a company to do it for you, but this will cost a lot of money.
Alternatively a technically competent manager or partner could work with Microsoft FrontPage on a PC, which as with all Microsoft software for NHS use should be available from your PCT or IT support organisation.
Get a manual if you don't already know your way around the program. FrontPage the missing manual is a good book.
I started doing this, using FrontPage, but then I started working from home on my old iMac using the program iWeb, which is bundled free with all new Macs these days.
iWeb has built-in templates that are very easy to use; otherwise designing one from scratch will take some effort.
Start with a simple home page, link it to another page of phone numbers and continue from there. Each web page on your intranet can be linked together, and each page will have links to all other web pages outside on the Macs as well as to all the files you have scanned and saved.
How the intranet works
The intranet file lives in the server's shared folder, what people often refer to as their Z-drive.
Every PC has an icon on the desktop which when clicked opens your web browser and shows a home page.
The home page has other pages linked to it, which are accessed by clicking on them. For example, the doctor's page has links to the web pages of commonly used journals, CKD algorithms and so on. The manager's page links to Emis, the local PCT website, practice protocols etc.
Make as many pages as you need. Include practice headed notepaper, fax cover sheets and all those different clinic referral forms.
Get them available in their electronic version from each hospital department in Word or PDF format.
You can add links that will automatically open a new e-mail message to people you frequently e-mail – saving you time hunting through your address book. Don't forget links to GPnotebook and Searchmedica.
How the intranet has helped
I now print out A4 referral forms for our local hospital clinics. They are available at the main or branch surgery and they always have the quality of the original so when faxed they retain their legibility.
I don't need a phonebook as all the hospital admission, chemist and undertakers' phone numbers are reachable within two clicks.
To check an online journal takes two clicks. To e-mail a partner is one click.
Our practice manager saved all the practice protocols as Word documents and they were copied to a folder on the intranet so all the staff could find them when they needed them. This was also useful at QOF visit time.
There is no longer any excuse for not finding a protocol, or a memo from the PCT as they are also scanned, saved as PDFs and linked to the memo intranet page.
You must keep your intranet up to date.
Keep a collection of new memos and other items you want to add, and perhaps once a week get your secretary to scan them. Add these files and you will keep everyone on the intranet up to date, and able to find and read letters and memos you have been sent.
When I make any changes at home, the program will 'publish' the intranet to a USB memory stick which is taken into work the next day and copied onto the server.
If you use Microsoft FrontPage, your changes are 'published' direct to the folder on your server, and everything is up to date again.
•primopdf.com This is a great little program that allows you to convert Word files into PDFs. This makes your intranet faster as your browser doesn't have to open Microsoft Word every time you open a file to view it.
•apple.com/uk/ilife/iweb/ Has information about the Apple way of making websites or intranets.
•office.microsoft.com/en-us/frontpage/default.aspx The Microsoft design program is about to be changed to become Expression web, there is more information here about the upgraded program.
•mozilla.com/en-us/ Is the home of the web browser Firefox. Use this as your intranet browser so that you avoid interference with Internet Explorer and Choose and Book.
Dr Mark Smith is a GP in Westmoors, Dorset