Private providers make a vital contribution to healthcare provision in the UK, delivering high-quality care for thousands of patients and helping to alleviate pressure on the overstretched National Health Service.
But if everyone in the independent sector is to grow and thrive, we must pass some significant tests, from achieving the level of information transparency demanded by the Competitions and Markets Authority, to demonstrating that we have learned the lessons of the Paterson case.
The surest way to overcome these challenges is for practitioners, PMIs and hospitals to collaborate in a drive to streamline cumbersome processes, develop better lines of communication and improve governance and quality assurance. This is where The Private Practice Register (The PPR) comes in.
When Healthcode launched The PPR two years ago, we wanted to make it easier for practitioners to obtain recognition and update their details with PMIs. Until then, the process would involve completing separate applications which would usually pose the same questions. Registered practitioners who changed their details would have to do so for each PMI.
The PPR eliminates this frustrating duplication. Practitioners complete only one form to set up their profile on the system and register with their chosen insurers. They can update their details once on The PPR, rather than inform each PMI separately. Each practitioner has complete control over their own profile and access to Healthcode’s electronic billing, secure messaging services and coding tools.
To date, more than 10,000 practitioners have registered with The PPR and Healthcode are setting up new profiles at a rate of over 500 per month. We are rapidly reaching the point where The PPR becomes the definitive primary source of practitioner data, from their biography, qualifications and professional registration, to the hospitals where they have practising privileges, procedures and practice hours.
And this is why The PPR has become more than a fast-track to insurer recognition (as important as this is). Its wider significance lies being the technology platform that securely connects the different parts of the independent healthcare sector: practitioners, PMIs and hospitals so we can work together more effectively for the common good.
To this end, Healthcode has just launched the next phase of The PPR project which will see it being rolled out to private hospitals. We are piloting the service with these users to determine their priorities but initially hospitals will be able to view the PPR profiles of practitioners who have practising privileges at their organisation and see whose appraisal or indemnity is overdue. They will also receive notifications when a practitioner joins The PPR and links to their organisation so they can cross-check this with their own records and discrepancies can be addressed. Future functionality will include the ability to process and administer practising privilege applications and procedure credentialing. In short, it will give hospitals a clear picture of their consultant population and provide the tools to enhance their governance procedures.
Extending The PPR to hospitals is an important step towards data transparency which will benefit the sector as a whole and it also brings practical advantages for independent practitioners. For example, the detailed information on a PPR profile supports practitioners in maintaining practising privileges and in future it should be possible to apply to hospitals through the system. Practitioners will be in control of their own data and will be able to securely share confidential information with their hospital contact. And it should make billing PMIs for admitted patients more efficient.
For too long, the private healthcare sector has resembled an organisation where everyone works on a standalone computer. Without access to a common network, it is impossible for people to be sure whether the information they hold is accurate; administrative processes are often inefficient and involve duplicating effort; and there is nothing to stimulate discussion about new ideas or best practice.
The PPR is a game-changer because the technology brings together practitioners, PMIs and hospitals. With access to a secure online platform, many of the transactions that take place across the private sector every day can be managed more efficiently. We can access reliable information on which to make informed choices. And looking further ahead, there is the potential for further innovations such as centralised appointment booking which will increase our appeal to patients.
While the private sector has enormous strengths, the Paterson case left us at a crossroads. If we are to convince people of the safe, high-quality care that they can expect from the private sector, we need to unite and deliver meaningful change. While the publication of performance data through PHIN is a definite sign of progress, we need to go further. The PPR provides the technology and tools to transform outdated working practices but most importantly, it brings us together.