Designing care pathways around patients’ needs

A report by The King’s Fund has recommended that local organisations be given the freedom to prioritise quality patient care under the supervision of NHS boards.  Entitled “Patient-centred leadership” the report acts as a follow-up to the Francis inquiry.

One of the central themes of the report relates to the need to move away from externally imposed targets and towards a culture which puts patient-care at the centre of the NHS.   Commenting on the report the NHS Confederation chief operating officer Matt Tee said: “It is very worrying that such a significant proportion of respondents to the King’s Fund survey think the NHS does not sufficiently prioritise quality of care.”

The president of the Royal College of Physicians, Sir Richard Thompson, backed the report but highlighted the way in which technology can play its part in aiding, or hampering, a physician’s attempt to provide quality care.  A report on the national health executive website quotes Sir Richard as saying that “Clinicians desperately want to provide high quality care, but problems with systems and resources can often make it difficult for doctors and nurses to treat their patients well.”

Certainly the old days of scribbling a note on a piece of paper and putting it in a patient’s file are gone.  But whether the introduction of technology has improved and streamlined care processes is a matter of debate by many health practitioners.  As with any new technology, some systems prove a boon in terms of time saving whilst others are so complex that the practitioner sometimes feels they are spending every moment in satisfying the ever gaping maw of IT and processes.

But there are some technologies which can make a real difference to maximising patient care times.  For example, systems which record and store patient files electronically can generate huge time savings.  Gone are the hours of filing and the wasted time whilst you search for a note which has been misplaced.  Instead, a touch of a button and the entire patient file is there before you, with notes, MRI images and other documents available to view instantly. Not only does an automated patient record help to manage multi-practitioner cases, it can prove to be a boon in smaller practices such as those provided by osteopaths or physiotherapists.

Undoubtedly our health practitioners have the will to provide top quality patient care at all times.  With automated patient records freeing up valuable time, perhaps technology can lead the way in this transformation.

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