NHS IT needs doctor consultation

Doctors should be involved at all stages of healthcare IT projects, according to experts at the BCS Health Informatics conference.

Doctors should be involved at all stages of healthcare IT projects, according to experts at the British Computer Society's (BCS) Health Informatics conference.

Denis Protti, a professor at the University of Victoria in Canada, said involving clinicians at all stages is crucial to ensuring the success of an IT programme.

Protti gave two examples of US healthcare organisations that have drastically improved quality of care using IT. One, Intermountain Healthcare in Salt Lake City, built an enterprise data warehouse to help it use its financial and clinical data more effectively. The other, the US Veterans Administration, invested a proportionally large amount of money in technology and built its own set of systems.

Both organisations built their own systems in-house with the aim of improving patient care, but Protti said this was not the crucial part of the success of the projects. What really mattered was having strong leadership whose priority was patient care, and enlisting the help of clinicians in designing, developing and implementing new technology, he said.

"Technology affects the clinicians more than anyone else," he said. "The organisations that have been successful in introducing technology into healthcare have to change processes. That requires clinician involvement because they help everyone see why change has to be made, and how change can be made. It is very much about changing processes and clinicians are the most effective at doing this."

The next important step for informatics and IT staff in healthcare is working out how to manage and use the technology they already have more effectively, and working with the users of the systems will be an important part of getting this right. Brunel University's Heinz Wolff said at the conference, "The most important innovation we will see in the 21st century is how society organises itself. We already have an enormous amount of technology. What we have not got right is organising people into acting with one another to deliver a service using that technology."


Photo: Rex Features

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