Worked for Mayday hospital in West Croydon
Effective communication is essential for organisations to be successful. It is the process by which information is exchanged between one group or person and another, by thoughts, messages, speech, signals, writing, or behaviour. In this essay I shall discuss the role of communication in information systems and problems that may arise from the ineffective usage of bad communications. During my gap year I worked for Mayday hospital in West Croydon. I worked as an office administrator and helped deal with medical records, ensuring records would get to the right place on time.
During this period I had found that the NHS were currently in the process of implementing a number of new information systems in all its hospitals, naming it the ‘National Program for Information Technology’. The reasons for this programme were to improve the flow of information in the Health Service, as there had been many complaints with the current system, being insufficient and ineffective. Thus causing delays with workers having to work extra hours.
The programme will also be beneficial to patients, allowing them access, to certain information. One part of the scheme is concerned with creating a national computer network (similar to a WAN). A wide area network allows the connection between computers over a large geographical area, even over several countries. This will allow the communication and data to be exchanged linking hospitals, departments within hospitals, GP’S and chemists together. The reason for this being done will now help improve the sharing of patients’ medical records.
At Mayday hospital I found, many mistakes had occurred due to medical records being mixed up and there wasn’t an appropriate system to help store a patient’s history. It is extremely vital for the new system being introduced to overcome many barriers that the NHS are now facing. Patients will be able to view their records via the Internet. This is a perfect way to help ensure records are being verified and that the data in it is correct. This is an example of good communication between the users.
In an emergency where the patients record is unknown, doctors can quickly get information about any drug allergies or previous treatments immediately. However the improvement of communication can put more strain on the security. For example, this can make it easier for hackers to gain entry, steal and corrupt data or to carry out fraudulent tasks. When information is made more accessible to the public, this also makes it more possible for unauthorised users to view this information. With the current paper based system, this can mean that a patient usually has to wait for weeks to receive an appointment.
A feature part of the NPFIT known as the Electronic Booking Service will help assist GPs in making hospital or clinical outpatient decisions, this new system will now eliminate the problem by allowing the patient to book an appointment on the spot, this is known as a ‘pseudo real-time’, where the data is processed immediately. The NHS has also introduced an email system for clinical communications called Contact (similar to an electronic bulletin board), but instead the Contact provides a national directory of people in the NHS, which includes their details and address of the NHS department they are working for.
This allows any member of staff working for the NHS to contact each other immediately, again preventing any delays. Instant communication between staff would help them to use other aspects of the information system more efficiently. If a GP needs to hear the recommendations of a specialist before referring a patient, email could potentially provide a much quicker response from the specialist compared to conventional mail. The patient could then use the Electronic Booking Service to book an appointment at a convenient date and time.
The NPFIT has another feature known as the Electronic Transmission of Prescriptions. This feature will enable GPs to transfer prescriptions to pharmacies electronically and also to the prescription pricing authority. This new way will help reduce any errors that may have occurred before and also allow patients to collect their prescription from any pharmacy in the country. It is vital for separate information systems to communicate with each other.
The information system will allow the different departments in the hospital to be able to communicate effectively with each other, for example the pathology laboratory system must be able to communicate with the system on the wards so that doctors can have access to blood test results as quickly as possible. When a patient is moved from one hospital to another, for example to get some sort of surgery and there’s a need for a move then it is important that the hospital information systems are able to communicate patient information between each other.
It could also be highly beneficial if the information system could communicate with other information systems, such as the government department for research and health statistics, and this could then also help measure the progress of the system. It is essential for people to communicate with an information system to input and extract information. It’s important that all the users are able to understand the information held on the system, as certain hospitals may operate in a slightly different way and have thus adopted a different culture.
It would be inappropriate to have information in abbreviation or a code form as other hospitals and departments may not understand the language. It is necessary for people to communicate well with other people to make the most affective use of the system. Users need to be aware of what the system can provide and what data is available, as well as being able to use it effectively. Users will then be able to highlight any problems they find with the information system.
Post implementation review is an important part of the process, where once the new system has been running for a short period of time it can be reviewed. Users can note down problems that may have occurred. They may find that minor programming errors may have to be corrected or modifications made to the design. It is only when people start to use a new system that they realise its shortcomings. In some cases they may have realised that it would be possible to get even more useful information from the system than they had thought, and more programs may be requested.
The NHS will hold regular meetings for the users, so that the system can continually be updated to reach the expected requirements. The NPFIT main objective is to improve the communication channels internally and externally within the NHS. The NHS wants to improve the communication of information throughout and have satisfied their patients, and employees. This improved flow of information holds many benefits to it, as well as contributing a great deal to saving lives. I am now going to use the Birchard inquiry as an example to show the affects of bad communication within an information system.
In December 2003, 2 young girls called Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman were murdered. Ian Huntley was convicted of this murder, but he had been allowed to work at a school where he had previously been suspected of committing sexual assaults on more than one occasion. The public was shocked by these murders and demanded to know why he was still allowed to work at this school. Due to this the Home Secretary launched an independent inquiry into the way police investigated Ian Huntley before giving the authorisation for him to work in a school.
The chairman of the inquiry, Sir Michael Birchard outlined the intention as “Urgently to enquire into child protection procedures in Humberside Police and Cambridgeshire Constabulary in the light of the recent trial and conviction of Ian Huntley for the murder of Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells”. CIS Nominals is an Intelligence system within the Humberside Police. The inquiry found that this system was severely flawed. The CIS was introduced in 1999, and were allowed to check names through the CIS crime system. It took 4 years for the people carrying out vetting checks to be informed this.
Birchard, “Said it took four years (from 1999 to 2003) for those carrying out vetting checks to be told that the CIS system, were allowed to check names through the CIS Crime system”. This major delay in communication, may have led to other criminals slipping through the net of vetting checks throughout the four-year period. This shows the need for communication in organisations to be timely as well as accurate. At the age of 21, Ian Huntley had sexual relationships with at least three 15-year-old girls and the social services were aware of this, but the social services failed to communicate this information with the police.
If the police had been aware of this information, this may have shown up later, when vetting checks were being carried out on Huntley. This may have stopped him from getting a job at the school. In December 2003 the Humberside Police said ‘the main reason for this was because of the data protection act. Information about dealings with Ian Huntley had not been available to them during vetting checks’. This inquiry also stated that the problem was due to the police not having been told about this legislation regarding information about the person being vetted.
A report about this had said ‘that the police officers were nervous about breaching the legislation, partly at least because too little was done to educate and reassure them about its impact’. A member of the judiciary said recently, ‘an inelegant and cumbersome piece of legislation, but the legislation was not the problem’. The judiciary also stated “that better guidance is needed on the collection, retention, deletion, use and sharing of information, so that police officers, social workers and other professionals can feel more confident in using information properly”.
This simply indicates the importance of effective communication. The information system may have been used to its full potential if the officers had been aware of the limits of the data protection act. Ian Huntley’s date of birth had been entered into the system incorrectly and this was found during the vetting checks. If this sort of information had been entered correctly, then they would have been aware of his past behaviour. This could have lead to him not having worked in a school. The PNC (Police National Computer), only checked against the name Ian Nixon and not Ian Huntley.
An Information system can fail completely without accurate information from the end user, highlighting the systems reliance on good communication with its users. Cambridgeshire Police were meant to have sent a fax to the Humberside Police requesting a check of their records on Ian Huntley, but the report states this had never taken place. “It is extremely unlikely that any fax was ever sent to Humberside Police requesting a check of their records”. The failure to communicate information appropriately between forces shows a need for a nationalised information system.
This will make information accessible to all police forces across the nation, showing the importance of good communication between information systems. From the two examples I have discussed, we can now see how effective communication is the key, to make the most efficient use of an organisations information system. Users must communicate with the system correctly, when data entering and extracting information. Information systems must communicate with each other so that the whole organisation and other departments that it is linked to, can share information.
To gain the most use of an information system, people must be able to communicate effectively amongst their selves so they can gain knowledge of what the information system can provide for them. Any problems they may encounter should not be ignored. Users need to be aware of who has access to what. Information systems is a perfect tool for organisations and makes tasks a lot easier to carry out, but to make the most effective use, will depend on how good communication is within and outside the information system.