Liverpool PCT ... Know your patients better, save more lives
Targets are designed to help GPs focus better on the crucial needs of individual patients. However, plenty still slip through the net. Often, it is because GPs don't know the ethnicity, faith or language strengths of most patients.
Yet ethnicity can be a key predictor of diabetes risks and of subsequent heart problems. If you don't know a patient's faith, that he is fasting during Ramadan, then your advice on medication might not wrong. 'Non-compliant' patients missing clinics might simply have misunderstood the invitation, because they can't read English.
That's why Lambeth and Liverpool PCTs lead the country in developing cheap, easy methods for 'patient profiling': collecting, storing and analysing such information.
'I expected practices to say, "That's very nice dear but we haven't got the time",' says Pauline Mitchell, Patient Profiling Development Officer for Liverpool PCT.
In fact, 97 practices have joined up. 'We are enthusiastic about what we are doing. We give them training, so that staff understand why profiling is important. We also provide a tool kit containing a data collection form, a template to enter the data onto the clinical system, protocols for data entry, information around BME health, a contact sheet for local community groups and health advice leaflets in different languages.
'Initially, some dismiss it as a box ticking exercise, until we explain clearly the connection religion and ethnicity have to healthcare, how spoken and read language influence access to services.'
'We're cross-matching CHD, BMI, diabetes and smoking status of patients against the new patient profiling data. Very soon, we will spot where patients and groups of patients are not getting vital healthcare and offer possible explanations - and simple solutions - for why, perhaps, they may be missing health checks or at a extra risk of serious disease.'
'GPs find our support brings the need for profiling to life for them. It costs little, achieving easy wins and transform the lives of individuals.'