Chris Netherton, M.D.

The Difference GP Connect will make for GP Practices

When the first phase of the GP Connect programme is delivered in September 2016, it will create an entirely new environment for GP practices in the UK.

Effectively, it will mean that GP practices regain their autonomy. At last they will be able to make decisions about which system to choose based on whether the software best meets their own needs – rather than having to take into account whether or not it will integrate with other systems.

GP Connect will ensure interoperability and seamless integration between all healthcare systems in future. So, now that thorny old chestnut is taken out of the equation, practices can make their buying decisions based on the important factors that make a real difference to their practice and their patients, such as performance, patient-centric design and customer service.

As all software will integrate, there will be a real level playing field for the first time and equality of decision-making.

In the past, some practices in a federation have relinquished their autonomy as the decision which clinical system to use across the federation has been made, occasionally by others, based on the system already used by the majority. This decision may have been made for the sake of ease of integration or even so a low cost clinical system could be supplied to other sections of healthcare in an area. This has meant that individual practices have occasionally had to compromise their own wishes to go with the majority while their own freedom of choice has been removed.

In the new world after GP Connect is delivered, such a decision making process would be erroneous and flawed. Even within a federation, there will be no reason why individual practices could not all choose the software they want to suit their own needs, as it would all integrate perfectly well in any case. After all David did win the fight against Goliath!

There are a number of benefits of GP Connect at an industry wide level. For example, common protocols will lower the cost of product development and thus stimulate innovation. However, the impact GP Connect will have on GP practices has not so far been widely documented, publicised or acknowledged, yet it seems to me that the impact could be enormous.

Practices will be able to regain autonomy of choice and work collaboratively without compromise. GP Connect will give individual GP practices back some of their power. And once that is unleashed, who knows where it might take them?