Chris Netherton, M.D.

An exciting new era of innovation and collaboration

This week, the Microtest team were presenting and exhibiting at a major eHealth event in Scotland, the annual SCIMP & SNUG Conference 2016. It was a perfect illustration of how quickly thinking is developing in this area, and how influential eHealth has become.

The conference was hosted by two excellent grassroots organisations which help care providers in Scotland to exploit the full potential of the exciting new technologies. These are Scottish Information Management in Practice (SCIMP) and the Scottish National Users’ Group (SNUG).

The Scottish Government sees eHealth as absolutely pivotal to its overall health strategy. The government’s vision is that everyone in Scotland should be able to live longer, healthier lives at home or in a homely setting. Their goals for eHealth are:

  • To enhance the availability of appropriate information for healthcare workers and the tools to use and communicate that information effectively to improve quality.
  • To support people to communicate with NHS Scotland, manage their own health and wellbeing, and to become more active participants in the care and services they receive.
  • To contribute to care integration and to support people with long-term conditions.
  • To improve the safety of people taking medicines and their effective use.
  • To provide clinical and other managers across the health and social care spectrum with the timely management information they need to inform their decisions on service quality, performance and delivery.
  • To maximise efficient working practices, minimise wasteful variation.

This comes at a time when the pressures and problems facing primary care in NHS Scotland are mounting. A BMA Scotland survey found that 28 per cent of GP practices in Scotland had at least one GP vacancy in June of this year, while 75 per cent of practices have previously warned of difficulties in finding locum cover. There is a shortage of newly qualified doctors entering general practice, compounded by the fact that 10 per cent of Scottish GPs are considering taking early retirement due to work pressures and lack of resources.


of Scottish GPs are considering taking early retirement

The other great change in Scotland this year has been the dismantling of QOF, which has prompted much debate about how to move forward with the GP Contract.

Against this background, it was encouraging to see how extremely positive, upbeat and optimistic the conference was. This was not because anyone underestimates the scale of the challenges in Scotland, but because the advent of eHealth has created a completely new way of thinking about these challenges. And the tools and solutions available to deal with them are expanding and improving all the time.

Collaboration was a hot topic at the conference and we discussed in depth the need to provide truly joined-up healthcare for patients. We were able to talk to delegates about our new Planned.Care product, which was created specifically to address this need. With Planned.Care, a patient’s care plan can be shared with all their key medical practitioners and care providers. This is the first time that all organisations across the UK can have online access to a patient’s comprehensive care plan – making a new level of collaboration possible. It can provide a platform for totally joined-up healthcare, as it will integrate with any primary or secondary care system, as well any first responder service, social care, community teams and voluntary organisations.

Another Microtest product which attracted a lot of interest in Scotland was our award-winning system Guru, which allows for secure sharing of a patient’s GP medical record across a range of care providers, including hospitals, emergency departments, hospital pharmacies, ambulance services, specialist clinics, GPs at nursing homes and urgent care clinics. By allowing quick and accurate access to patient records, Guru can enable dramatic improvements in the speed and quality of patient care. This is a really well timed development with regard to Scotland…

In June of this year, Scottish Health Secretary, Shona Robison, led a Holyrood debate on “delivering a healthier Scotland.” She stated that she wanted GP practices to become more of a community service, involving teams of health professionals and others working together under the guidance of a GP. Certainly, it seems that one way to relieve some of the pressure on Scottish GPs would be for them to focus on the tasks that only they can handle, while delegating less critical work to other team members.

As the above plan takes shape, innovations such as Planned.Care and Guru can play a crucial role by ensuring fast, secure and accurate sharing of patient information among the wider team that is involved in that patient’s care. It’s another brilliant example of new technology enabling a completely new approach to collaborative working.

One of the fantastic aspects of my role is being able to travel around the country and talk to health professionals at these types of conferences. You get to spend time with some of the brightest minds in the country. They are buzzing with fascinating ideas on how things could be improved. This in turn helps to trigger new thinking from our team on how we can create better products to deliver those improvements. It makes me feel incredibly excited about the future and the next new developments that are just around the corner.