In a few short years GP practices have moved to become one of the most advanced areas of smaller business in their use of IT, outstripping both the private sector and much of the public sector.   Many practices are, or are well on their way to becoming paperless.   Many have web sites to handle frequently answered questions 24 hours a day and a few are experimenting with on line appointment booking.  Today on our Diploma programmes practice managers learn to look at IT systems strategically and how to design their own websites.
As little as 5 years ago we needed to spend time educating Practice Managers in the basics of IT applications outside the often outdated clinical systems they were using.
To some extent this only reflects the rising standard of computer literacy in the population and the almost exponential growth of Internet access we enjoy. Currently 90% nationwide.
This level of literacy, access and systems gives us further opportunities to use IT more effectively in the area of Personal Development.
In this article we explore some possibilities and recent developments designed to save time and paper and to make learning more flexible.

Personal Development Planning & Appraisal online
The appraisal process is vital and valuable, yet few would put it at the top of the list as their favourite activity either as an appraiser or appraisee. The process can be prone to subjectivity and even bias. For anyone who hasn’t encountered it, 360 appraisals add anonymous input from colleagues and those who report to you, to the normal line managers and appraisees views.

Having worked on appraisal systems for many years we have developed a robust competence based system, which could be used conventionally or in a 360-degree version.

Competencies describe a specific skill. A set of competencies would support a specific job role. Individuals are assessed against how much of that competence others see demonstrated.

Paperless appraisal

Rather than filling in lots of paper we believed that it would be simpler to fill in all appraisal forms on screen and produce a report, which showed the appraisers and appraisee a complete report that identified gaps for discussion and training.

4 years ago this moved to an electronic version you could run on a stand alone PC or an Intranet and last year moved to an optional Web based version.  This gives instant access and complete confidentiality.

Local authorities have large numbers of employees, practice don’t and need some specialised competencies, so over the last year we have worked with the Keats practice in Hampstead to design a practice based version.

Involving staff – competencies based on GP contract

Where employees have been involved in deciding what competencies should be applied to them, resistance to the process has been minimised. and people feel the process is also fair. We worked with focus groups of staff, nurses and GPs to create clear and meaningful set of competencies for each role in the practice.  These were based on a variety of sources including the GMC’s published competencies for GPs, (which although excellent in principle are not detailed enough for assessing non clinical performance).  For practice staff we based them on the competencies published in the new GP Contract (Interestingly there are no competencies for IT skills – so thanks to the group at North Bristol PCT who drafted some excellent ones!) plus some adapted from existing national published competencies for managers, supervisors and front line staff.

Essential benefits

The benefits any such system needs to give the practice manager are as follows:

  • Clear and acceptable competencies founded on good practice and in line with national standards.
  • Simple secure access
  • All personal development forms on screen – no paper input
  • Secure reports to appraisee and appraiser only
  • Identification of gaps in competence and training needs
  • Complete records
  • Contribute to GP’s folder for re-validation
  • The ability to create, capture, and store all patient questionnaires necessary for re-validation easily.

The level of IT systems and skills in practices means that this approach to the development and appraisal process can be adopted now and will remove yet one more element of paper based work from the practice managers desk

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