The tectonic plates of healthcare are moving, whether individual clinicians like it or not. Patients are getting older and more demanding and the younger ones are adopting ever unhealthier lifestyles. Hospitals will be reconfigured, A&E departments will be "consolidated"
Forgive me if I give a trivial instance of waste that I experienced this week. A junior member of my GP practice asked me to come in to get a blood-pressure reading from the sister. I told him that I took my blood-pressure regularly at home. He pooh-poohed me, insisting that I come in, which I did obediently, to find that the sister's reading was the same as my home reading. To me, that was a waste of NHS resources, albeit a tiny one and a waste of my time. Not only that, he was going against the stated policy of the NHS to make patients more involved in their own care.
And that is another challenge for GPs. They have to get patients to involve themselves in their own treatments, and, hopefully, to persuade patients to avoid unhealthy lifestyles. And to understand their own patient records, which they should do by 2015, when the government wants patient records to become accessible to patients.
There is another challenge for Dr Nagpaul. Healthcare technology is moving fast, but GPs – and clinicians in general – have historically been obstructive. In these columns, I have often deplored the lack of email between doctor and patient, when the rest of the world uses email pervasively. When I see how dependent my GP is on my electronic patient record (EPR), I am shocked that out of hours practitioners are not given access to the GPs' records. This is a recipe for inappropriate treatment. And similarly, the opposition by clinicians on doctor/patient confidentiality grounds, to the summary care record, seemed to me to delay the adoption of electronic patient records by five or more years. Some senior doctors are currently trying to rubbish telehealth, without realising the benefits.
IT people get mad ideas from time to time, and need a restraining hand, and there are security problems with EPRs, but it is up to clinicians to engage with IT people to sort them out in pursuit of the greater good. Dr Nagpaul must somehow persuade GPs to engage positively with technology. He must get a new generation of young IT leads to help him. Everybody under the age of 35 is a digital native nowadays. And older GPs should get some training.
Dr Nagpaul, in a letter to GPs last week, wrote: "Now, more than ever, we must make the case for general practice to show how remarkably effective, and cost-effective, it is. I will aim to forge a renewed relationship with government, demonstrating how investing in general practice is key to managing escalating pressures in an NHS increasingly beleaguered by austerity measures." Indeed, but I hope he realises his task is bigger than that. It is to drag his members, kicking and screaming into the 21st century.
This article is published by Guardian Professional. http://www.theguardian.com/
Activ8rlives says: We fully support this journalist who regularly self monitors their own blood pressure at home. They are empowered and have become self educated by understanding their own health and wellness – definitely not a ‘patient from hell’!
The importance of self monitoring to achieve optimal health may prevent the occurrence and severity of some chronic diseases, reduce premature death and improve the quality of life, and in so doing this could substantially reduce each individuals burden on the NHS budget.
We believe that alongside the excellent multidisciplinary support and education from professionals we need to become empowered to adjust our own behaviour to achieve a healthier and active lifestyle. When we feel empowered to change our lifestyle and adopt a healthy and active way of life our energy and stamina increases, we get fewer coughs and colds, we feel great and generally our mood is lifted and we feel a lot happier – all of which improve our overall health and wellness. This in turn reduces our demand on GPs, who after all act as the gate keepers to healthcare and huge budgets that fund our NHS operation. Surely a Win/Win?