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Getting the best out of new IT

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A few considerations should ensure new systems support your staff in their work

So, are you trying to use information technology on the ward and want to make sure it helps rather than creates problems for your staff? Here are a few tips that will help.

IT is supposed to help us to complete tasks and do our work. And for patient care, it can play a vital role in making sure we have the right information available to us at the right time. This is to help us keep patients safe and provide the best care possible.

However, it’s easy for things to go wrong. Badly implemented IT systems can be a real pain for staff and can cause more problems than they are designed to solve.

So, to help avoid this happening, the most important thing to do at the outset is to make it your business to understand what the technology is trying to achieve. This applies whether it’s a completely new record system, a new patient administration system or even a new piece of equipment.

How to get the most out of IT

● Get involved with any information technology developments as early
as possible
● Involve the whole team - you may find unexpected champions
● Act as leader, setting a positive tone and culture for your team
● Be practical - where will the technology be stored and who will need access?
● Take care when collecting data - be clear who wants it, why and when

You and your team know your work best and you will know how technology can fit into your daily activities, so don’t let anyone impose things on you. Ask to see the system/equipment before it comes to the ward, so you can make a full assessment of what needs to change.

Second, involve all your staff every step of the way. They will be able to help you to work out the best plan. You may find that an unexpected champion steps forward.

All new IT brings with it some change, so expect things to be different and talk to your staff about it.

Be positive and help staff to understand why the change is necessary. As a leader, your attitude towards any change affects the whole team, so even small cues like the words you use to describe the technology will set the scene for staff.

Be practical about how you work. Consider where you keep equipment and how it affects where staff do the actual work. There is little point in putting a piece of equipment, for example a printer, in your office if everyone needs access at all times of the day and night. Put equipment where it will be needed.

If you are collecting information on an IT system take care that the data entry forms you are using meet the needs of your patients and the staff. Try to avoid collecting information that doesn’t add any value - be clear about why you are collecting information and what that information is to be used for.

You should always be able to get reports back from systems. Ask for information - your staff entered it and you should be able to see it.

Anne Cooper is the national clinical lead for nursing at the Health and Social Care Information Centre. She started her career in cardiology and chest medicine in which she was a ward sister before moving into management. After working in IT for NHS Direct, she became fascinated in informatics

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