Is it better to build systems and processes natively in the clinical system rather than using third-party software?

Is it better to build systems and processes natively in the clinical system rather than using third-party software?

Author: Tim Foster
Date: 15 February 2021

This fundamental question has long been deliberated by practices and CCGs who ideally would like to use their core clinical system to run all relevant processes, systems, and software requirements for the practice. Why pay for additional software and introduce something new for practice staff to adopt? Ideally, this would be the case, but third-party software exists for a reason and that is often one of innovation, flexibility, and agility in what they can deliver.

Core clinical system companies partner with others, such as DXS, to enhance the offering that their system provides. With the level of clinical and technical resources available to a third party, they are sometimes better placed to identify a need or problem that exists in primary care and provide a solution. The features and fixes can be applied a lot quicker and in an agile approach, as they are not restricted to being updated in the core clinical system updates.

Additionally, by their nature, the core clinical systems can be limited in what they are able to deliver, technically due to their priority being centred around that ‘core’ functionality. Third-party companies deliver innovative ideas and products that could not be supported within a core system. These ideas and products provide depth in the systems and, as a result, often a richer user experience.

For example, DXS is able to provide a dedicated clinical resource that ensures all data is up to date and clinically assured. This kind of resource could simply not be maintained by a core system provider and, although technically possible, would not be seen as a priority. ICE, DOCMAN and accuRx, are other examples of software which focus on delivering high-quality solutions which go over and above what is possible in the native clinical systems. All are heavily adopted by the majority of GP practices and heavily utilised due to what they are able to deliver.

Third-party systems are able to focus on delivering solutions to specific problems within primary care and by providing their expertise together with innovative ideas, can deliver bespoke solutions by harnessing both native system and external capabilities. Many companies have access to core system APIs (Application Programming Interface – interfaces that allow software solutions to communicate with each other), which enable them to provide skilled solutions whilst accessing all relevant data within the clinical record.

Some assume performance is lost by using systems outside of the core system, but the APIs are designed in such a way that communications are quick, and only relevant data is passed between systems.

Software delivered outside of the core systems can sometimes allow for scalability and offer more flexibility around software version updates and data upgrades. These can be delivered without being tied to clinical system updates which can be infrequent and often prioritised with national demands.

Ultimately, utilising both the clinical system functionality and external expert systems to harness the best of both tools, will deliver the optimum solution.

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