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Old habits die hard: teething problems with an IT system switch

The ‘Die Hard’ action film series have a recurring theme of a down-at-heel cop who gets into all sorts of mayhem with the bad guys but prevails in the end and wins the fight after usually quite a lot of destruction and mayhem.

GPs aren’t all action heroes but, like Bruce Willis’s character, we do like to fall into a regular pattern of working. We each have our own consultation style and the flexibility of the clinical software we use must be such that a diverse range of consultation methodology is supported. 

The software must also be able to accommodate the way a practice works and manages workflow. The gold standard of any interface software must be that it is intuitive and allows the user to work in a way that is natural to them and makes life easier – else why use it at all?

Regular readers of this blog will remember I previously wrote about my practice’s decision to change over to SystmOne from EMIS LV, and that the reason for this change was not lack of software usability in our current system but the lack of interoperability between systems. 

Being the only EMIS LV practice left in our locality meant both we and our patients were being disadvantaged and as interoperability wasn’t refined enough we had to change.

To be fair to EMIS, it had always been a 50:50 decision which way to go, and the deciding factor was the lack of interoperability between systems – something that really does need sorting out by all the suppliers.

During this past week me and another partner together with three non-clinical staff have been going through SystmOne ‘Super User’ training, which is one of the preparatory phases a practice must go through before going live. With six hours of training every day together with morning and afternoon surgeries it’s been a hectic week, though the other partners have been brilliant supporting us and doing visits.

One of the outcomes from this training has been to identify where changes to workflow management within the practice might either stay the same or change, for example how the receptionist can immediately see who the patient usually sees when booking an appointment.

We certainly caused some head-scratching at SystmOne, as we work on the principal of a ‘Usual GP’ – we have personal lists. However, SystmOne couldn’t display the usual GP in the patient demographic box that shows the current active patient.

We solved this problem by simply changing the Usual GP to Registered GP in those historical patients where this had never been done before (and was never necessary in EMIS LV or even EMIS Web) – one example of how we had to change, and not the clinical system.

By the end of the week we all had a good idea how things work and how we could adapt the system interface to allow us to continue working in a very similar way to the way we do now. 

There were only a few instances where we felt the need to change practice workflow, which is encouraging: old habits die hard.

Dr Hadrian Moss is a GP in Kettering, Northamptonshire. You can tweet him at @DrHMoss.