Could a new feature in EMIS/Sunquest ICE save the NHS >£1.5 Million a year?

Sunquest ICE is a order comms software that allows GPs in primary care to order bloods and other tests electronically, rather than having to fill in forms by hand. Its one of the main players – there are others and the comments below may well apply to them too and to other systems other than EMIS so the savings could be much bigger!

ICE is integrated into my desktop – I press a button in EMIS and it launches a window that lets me choose the tests I want. I can then print off the form, if I so choose. In most cases I choose not too as do most other GPs I’ve spoken to at other practices. Why not? Well – you print off the form give it to the patient – ask them to bring it with them to their venesection appointment and guess what? They forget it – meaning an administrator needs to be around to print it off as the phlebotomist wont – its not her job – besides shes best concentrating on taking the blood. As you need an admin person or this – they might as well just print them all off.

I’m sure most people like us tried giving the patients their forms and then changed their minds as the lost form rate is huge and its such a waste of expensive paper to keep reprinting everything. The form itself has sticky labels on it that go onto the bottle and the form itself has a bar code on it that goes in the bag that the bottle to help tracking it through the lab system so you cant get rid of the form.

However what happens is an admin person or HCA before every phlebotomy clinic – goes down the list of patients attending – goes into their records one by one and finds the form and print it. I’m told it can take 30 mins per clinic or longer especially when the system is slow. If you say 1000 practices out of 8000 are doing this every day, 5 days a week, for a year – the cost adds up! Indeed our HCAs tell me its their most boring job of the day which they could be spending on patient contact and value added activities.

All that is needed is the ability to print any outstanding test requests from any of the patients in a chosen appointment list. I cant believe its that hard.

What again it shows me is despite companies like EMIS and Sunquest being well meaning and while I’m the end user – I have no control / influence over the functionality delivered to me from the main tools I use whose limitations are often costing me money/time. The federations I work with include over 200 practices – perhaps we need to get bigger still to have power to influence the tools we rely on in our day job? Or perhaps its time for a new EPR one that considers me the customer?