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How to get your GP practice working smarter, not harder

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How to get your GP practice working smarter, not harder

As healthcare policies continue to push for safer and higher quality care, GP practices have found themselves under increasing pressure. They're being forced to work harder, producing more with the same resource.

Your practice has been asked to provide care for more patients, spend more time with them, and instigate new policies and practices for various segments of the population. You've been tasked with providing extra levels of care for patients with specific illnesses. Simultaneously, employees are expected to improve documentation, and work more flexibly. The result is an increase in workload in an already complex environment.

Relying on your workforce to work harder with the same resources and support is a temporary fix to the increasing burden placed on primary care providers. Initially your employees will respond positively and productivity will rise. But soon the motivation wears off, morale falls, and mistakes become commonplace.

Working harder in an already pressured environment is an unsustainable strategy that eventually results in greater inefficiency. Your staff become fatigued, disillusioned, and burned out.

So how do you turn this situation around? The answer is to work smarter, not harder.

What is working smarter?

Working smarter is a strategy that seeks to create greater improvement from less workload (or at worst, the same workload). To achieve this, you need to design initiatives that are perceived to be helpful – your people will be less resistant and more engaged when they believe that a new process, method, or system will produce positive results and reduce their workload.

How to create a work smarter strategy

You'll need to review and assess tasks that are currently being performed, commit time and resource to change, and then educate and train staff as needed.

Remember, too, that smart-working practices are designed to improve care and increase efficiency, and that the people that put them into practice are probably in the best position to comment on plans.

Create engagement and buy-in through management-workforce partnership. Have your healthcare employees help to design new procedures and practices, test them, and offer ideas for improvement and implementation. There's one massive motivator on your side: people's natural desire is to work less and produce more.

Four strategic operators of working smarter in the GP practice

Within the healthcare environment, there are four strategic operators that determine how smart your team works:

Communication

The vast majority of work in the GP practice is non-clinical. Smart strategies and methods are needed to streamline communication between doctors, nurses, and other employees. A web-based space where communication and recording of information is easy, and easily accessible is essential. This will reduce workload and increase real-time understanding of a patient's needs and concerns. (Remember, privacy of patient information must be observed, so different staff will have different access levels.)

Patient complexity

In all GP practices, a small proportion of patients take up a disproportionate amount of time, effort, and cost. Their needs are complex, but that doesn't mean that your strategies have to be likewise.

Review the needs of patients, and segment for simplicity. Email systems can be used to send general care-related advice for specific patient segments, reducing time and increasing patient awareness.

Design and utilise systems that enable easy coordination and management of patient care across a patient's healthcare team.

Knowing the patient

Healthcare in the UK is moving rapidly towards a more patient-centric approach, empowering patients to take greater responsibility for their own health and the care and treatment they receive. Ensure that a patient's healthcare goals are explored and recorded. This allows the GP to align care to those goals, reducing workload and improving the patient experience across the healthcare team.

Integrate with all team members

Access to healthcare information, patient records and treatment data is essential for integrated working practices that reduce workloads. Technology is key to maintaining a strong team approach, enabling everyone to understand each other's roles, the patient care plan, and where the patient is on their personal care curve.

Five things the individual can do to work smarter in the GP practice

Working smarter is not only the remit of practice strategy. Individual employees should also be encouraged to work smarter. Here are five things that all employees can do to work smarter today:

  1. Improve time management – Use priority lists, set times for specific admin tasks, and stop multi-tasking!
  2. Start and end each day with a review – Shutdown by reviewing what you've accomplished and preparing for tomorrow. Open each day by reviewing your to-do list for the coming day.
  3. Only check your emails at certain pre-designated times – Email and social media get in the way of work. They're distractions from which it takes up to 25 minutes to refocus. Check email and social media at the beginning, middle, and end of each day (or even less, if possible).
  4. Declutter your workspace – A tidy desk and office, with everything filed in its rightful place, makes finding things easier, and that speeds up work. Do the same with your virtual workspace and computer desktops, too.
  5. Understand your strengths and weaknesses – Do the work that you're good at, and delegate work in your weakest areas. Pair up with colleagues who have complimentary skills, and share workloads to improve team efficiency.

Have you got any tips to help others in healthcare to work smarter? Share them with us, and we'll share them with others.

eSupplies Medical is a trading name of Williams Medical Supplies Ltd, a DCC business