Does your practice website help you to comply?

Steve Morris looks at some of the broad options.....

General practice websites are a mixed bag, varying from a web presence updated only occasionally and when forced to go so by radical change, through to an on-line tool providing a portal for patients to interact with the practice, other patients, and the staff managed daily.

There is still a lingering culture in some practices which keeps the patient at arms’ length, restricting communication to the tried and tested GP / nurse consultation. This of course is a comfort zone, supported by a myriad of protocols and procedures designed to capture information, record accurately, and not lose essential information. But what happens to those practices forced to move outside this protective rim, and embrace the concepts of patient involvement, interaction and care when they have no track record of developing this approach gradually over the last year or so? Satisfying the requirements of the CQC and QOF where more than just lip-service is needed may for them be a step too far.

For all practices, a cultural change has been escalating over the last few years, and some are well placed now to demonstrate how good they are in listening to their patients and involving them in their care and services. For some others, being good may not be enough. You have to be able to demonstrate this as well!

Your practice website is a useful tool. In the UK over 83% of the population use the internet. On the other hand, 42% of people who have never used the internet are over the age of 75*. It is therefore not the answer to all needs, but it is a good start.

There are some ideas and quick hits:

  • Keep it active and up to date. As soon as a patient sees inaccurate or out of date information they are less likely to return

  • Incorporate a generic Patient Feedback form, and act on them. This helps satisfy part of the requirements of CQC Outcome 1 which refer to patient involvement in treatment and services.

  • Conduct regular Patient Surveys via your website – an essential part of Outcome 1 (J) and respond to the findings

  • Create a standard section relating to PPGs, including how to join, on-line sign-up form, activities, meetings, notes, outcomes and how to contribute – Outcome 1 (J)

  • Incorporate into the website facility a PPG membership demographic reporting facility for the provision of management information relating to the composition of your PPG – satisfying the need to make this representative of your practice population and demonstrate it.

  • Post information on your private fees, not simply a reference to them Outcome 3 (A)

  • Provide details of local advocacy services and contact number. Outcome 1 (H)

  • Create a Teenage Health section to deal with advice and resources for this tranche of patients, often with particular needs for information and support.

  • If you provide information on specific long term conditions (Outcome 1 A) then include all 22 clinical disease areas included within QOF, not just the most common ones.

  • Include a section on Drug Abuse and Alcohol abuse (Outcome 1L)

  • Publish more public policy documents - Freedom of Information Act Publication Scheme, Equality and Diversity policy, confidentiality statements including sharing of information between agencies etc.

Only the practice can consider what it needs to do, and how to do it. Do you have, for example, detailed information in your website of your premises facilities? Especially in relation to disabled or elderly users (Outcome 10F). This could include;

  • toilets
  • access to building and rooms, car parking and disabled spaces
  • infant feeding and facilities
  • disabled / distress alarm call facilities
  • induction loop facilities, and how to use them (do your staff know?)
  • private rooms and interview facilities
  • Audit arrangements for premises

Many people with restricted mobility will assess premises facilities on-line before they decide to register to ensure that they can use the facilities easily – how easy is it for them to do this for your surgery? Why not take a critical look at your website facilities now?

These are just ideas of course, and the way in which a practice can demonstrate that it is fully engaging with the key Outcomes is somewhat subjective at the present time. As more inspections of GP practices take place and these develop more depth, then more precise requirements will become known. Until then it is probably advisable not to be caught on the left foot.

FPM is the largest supplier of online services to the Primary Care market via our our wholly-owned subsidiary My Surgery Website (MSW). Currently providing over 2700 GP Practices with websites and intranets - we have the experience to help you. To find out more about our online services visit the MSW pages on the FPM Website or visit the dedicated MSW Website. Alternatively fill in our contact form and one of our team will be in touch at your convenience to help you with any questions.

Steve Morris is a former business performance and risk analyst, and was a Practice Manager in Yorkshire for over ten years. He is General Manager, First Practice Management and specialises in finance and HR. He is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Bankers.

*Source: Office of National Statistics


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