Improve Productivity with Computer Skills
I have talked to 100’s of Doctors and Nurses in occupational health about computer skills (commonly called IT – information technology) over the years, with most admitting they dislike data entry and computers. Many manage to avoid using IT as much as possible. But the benefits of harnessing computer skills for communication is enormous – not to the practitioner admittedly, sometimes you can lose days trying to sort out a new system, but certainly for the organisations and the patient/employee.
Benefits of using Computer Skills in Health and Safety Practice include:
- Going paperless (good for the environment)
- Speeding up appointment systems
- Help prevent missed appointments with texting services
- Free video calls to clients and management (Facetime, Skype, WhatsApp)
- Improving communications (emails and reports)
- Demonstration of being modern (cool!)
- Having access to patient notes via the intranet or internet
- Storage of records (scan and save) and destruction of paper copies
- Instant access to necessary training records and health surveillance outcomes
- Automated clinical testing eg audiometry and spirometry
- Management information and feedback to client companies in the form of spreadsheets and reports against key performance indicators
- Audit trails for quality purposes
But despite all the benefits, and I have not listed them all, it’s been a long and challenging journey for the older professional. Not helped by well-publicised issues of NHS patient record national database, heralded as the new joined-up way of working across the NHS; the plan shelved after billions of pounds spent.
Also, issues of confidentiality as large commercial companies admitted to being hacked and a report in the Times of 1.8 million NHS patient records lost. Add the cost of running a bespoke system and worries of identity theft.
It’s true that many occupational health companies have sat back and waited for something better/cheaper/safer to come along. Or burying their heads in the sand and ignoring the writing on the (Facebook) wall, saying that computer skills are not as necessary as relationships with patients for monitoring workplace health.
Get Down with IT
The first significant change was GP’s issuing electronic Fit Notes in 2011 and at last, there is a means of collecting sickness absence data across the country. Types of illness, length of illness and rehabilitation recorded on millions of Fit Notes issued each year. This gives UK policymakers data for targeting areas of real need. And you could do the same in your company. Look for ill-health trends. Do some statistical analysis. You have it all at your fingertips nowadays.
Due to advances in medical appliances, occupational health practitioners can now do hearing and breathing tests via a laptop computer and compare previous records, looking for downward health trends in workers.
Record keeping too, transferred from paper to either bespoke or specialist software. Toolbox talks and safety training videos uploaded to Youtube or business databases. Website access at the touch of a button.
And the biggest change of all is the speed and efficiency of communications, such as reports on individuals (password protected), encrypted, changed to the portable data format (pdf) and sent or saved in the cloud for instant access.
There is no excuse; you cannot avoid developing and enhancing your IT skills if you want the best for your clients and patients.
How I use IT in Practice
Once, I trained 26 members of an occupational health team in various parts of the country on occupational health issues in the construction industry, using my PC and a telephone in real-time.
I recorded my screen for the training programme to be reused, and attendees able to ask questions either via a chat messenger service or directly during the presentation.
I have also uploaded video’s to YouTube and created my channel, and I have my own company Facebook page. Amazing.
Lagging behind IT
Did IT change overall occupational health practice very much?
I don’t think it has, unlike conventional medicine in the NHS which has incorporated innovations to improve and speed up surgical procedures and drug therapies.
When I trained as a nurse in the late 70’s (and yes I am that old) patients had to stay in the hospital for a minimum of 10 days after their first baby and gallbladder removal meant at least ten weeks recovery in a hospital. Now time in hospital has shortened to overnight and one day, and this is true of most NHS procedures.
In contrast, I was reading an occupational health text-book from 10 years ago and realised, apart from new laws, the principles and models of occupational health nursing remain largely unchanged. And I am getting that sinking feeling that occupational health must mend its ways to deliver an effective service in the face of technological innovation.
What IT is Available to Try in Occupational Health
Why not try:
- Voice activated software – I use Dragon Speech Recognition, Google Voice and Apple Apps for my iPhone and Ipad (highly recommended by me)
- Texting people for occupational health appointment reminders
- Booking appointments at the GP/Dentist, many are online now
- Using reference books via the internet free of charge e.g., The Green Book (vaccinations) or The British National Formulary (medicines)
- Accessing to guidelines, health and safety information (NICE for clinical guidance or the HSE free downloads
- Latest insights into occupational health issues from blog posts and Facebook groups and pages
- Joining an occupational health forum like jiscmail
- Templates for policy and procedures
- Facebook and Twitter
- Regular newsfeeds and newsletters from occupational health companies
- Reading health blogs
These are just a few that can enhance any practice. But my one tip that has helped succeed in the occupational health world – learn to touch type. It’s impressive efficient and satisfying to know my written work now is easier to read than my handwriting.
I leave you with this:
I was undergoing some personal health tests in the NHS and was talking to the Consultant. He talked to me and typed as he spoke not looking at the keys before asking me the next question. This was rare to see, so I complimented him on his skills as a typist. I asked if he had learnt at school or picked it up from using the computer? He replied – ‘No I just wanted to keep up with my work so I Googled ‘touch typing’ and started a course. I was able to type like this very quickly’.
Why not give it a go, change the way you view computers and ride that technology tidal wave.
Get on with IT and Computer Skills in Occupational Health
All occupational health practitioners must harness the internet and computers to really start to modernise occupational health practice. If we don’t get on this train it’s going to leave without us.
For more information on this subject buy my eBook – How to Start a Healthy Business: An Insiders Guide to Occupational Health Success. This book includes top tips and techniques to keeping ahead in a fast-changing environment