Chinese Whispers

A GP who is at the forefront of patient engagement and empowerment has revealed that 99% of his communications with physiotherapists are still carried out on paper.  According to the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, Dr Amir Hannan said ‘I don’t think we use email as productively as we might or technology in general.’

With letters being used as the prime communication method, it can sometimes be weeks before the results of patient treatments are conveyed to the general practitioner, resulting in delays in considering appropriate follow up treatment.  This affects the perception and actuality of patient care and can in some cases lead to a worsening of the patient’s condition.

In fact, Dr Amir highlighted the way in which delays in receipt of letters can result in the patient having to brief the doctor on the methods and results of treatments.  Whilst this does play into the hands of those who advocate patients taking responsibility for their care, it also means that treatments and findings can be filtered with a ‘Chinese whisper’ effect resulting in distortions.

Dr Hannan’s comments were echoed by NHS England’s director of systems, strategy and technology, Beverley Bryant, who confessed herself to be amazed “how much paper flies around our hospitals”.  As we have previously reported, one solution to this paper mountain is to adopt smarter practices which benefit from the use of current technology.  The health care authorities are working towards this end but there are options available now for those who need to find a way to communicate more effectively.

One of the main barriers to swift communication is the simple lack of time available to those who want to maximise patient treatment time.  Every time papers are filed, every time the phone is answered, every time an invoice is sent out is time which takes health practitioners away from their core task.  Simply by using the services of a virtual assistant to take control of telephone answering, diary management, electronic records and invoicing enables practitioners to free up valuable time.

Working smarter, not harder may be a mantra which is parroted around the business-speak airwaves on a regular basis but it does carry an element of truth.  Health practitioners took up the call to treat and improve the lives of others.  By concentrating on that calling and leaving the day to day admin to others, everyone benefits.