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When it is worth investing in IT

There are times when it is worth the practice investing in its own IT systems, says Dr Neil Paul.

Dr Paul: Having a good relationship with your IT department is vital (Photograph: M Jones)
Dr Paul: Having a good relationship with your IT department is vital (Photograph: M Jones)

Do you invest enough in the IT at your practice? 'What's that?' I hear you cry: 'Why should I invest anything? Surely the PCT should provide all the IT equipment?'

Well I think it's a mistake to rely on the PCT for everything and as times get harder you may want to think about spending some of your own money to top up what little comes your way. The point being that the PCT will only buy the cheapest, most basic kit it can.

Other people using his mouse and leaving it on the wrong side of his keyboard used to drive one of my partners mad. The cable was too short and he was forever pulling and tugging at the mouse to get it in position.

A £10 wireless mouse changed his life.

My wife had the same problem at her practice - but there I persuaded her to buy a rechargeable cordless mouse so she does not have that mid-surgery dash for the battery.

I spend a lot of time doing searches, playing with spreadsheets and having lots of windows open. I bought a 23-inch widescreen monitor. It's amazing the difference it makes.

Cost savings
As a practice, we decided to buy a colour laser printer and network it up, so key members of staff could use it. Although not cheap, compared with when the same people each had an expensive colour inkjet, overall it is quite a cost saving and the short walk to the printer means people think twice about printing everything out.

Thinking about IT to this level is a more bespoke service than most are used to and by its nature means different people have different things - a novel idea in general practice.

Thought should be put into who needs what, how much it will cost and what the return on investment is. One partner might benefit from a speech recognition system and it might have knock-on effects in terms of coding and not running late.

Another might benefit from a laptop to work from home. Some would find an iPad useful for emails. Overall the practice needs to be seen to be gaining, so think about how you are going to measure success.

You need a good relationship with your IT department. It will be a great help, particularly because it will need to support the kit. The next time a replacement PC is needed, it might be worth discussing whether you can upgrade to a better model. The IT team might also be able to arrange bulk discounts, or give advice on getting the most from your IT.

  • Dr Paul is a GP in Cheshire

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