Finding efficient ways of collecting GP performance data is a challenge that is vital for practices to face head on, writes Hannoh Lowish.

The quality and outcomes framework year has begun anew and general practices across the land may well be gearing up to tackle the new set of indicators for 2012-13, but scratching their heads over how exactly to grab the points.

But do points mean (metaphorical) prizes when it comes to quality of care?

The intention behind the framework is to improve patient care, treatment and experience by making quality quantifiable, and to reduce discrepancies between practices. New diagnosis of conditions has increased year on year, which intuitively suggests that patients are receiving earlier treatment and that there is an improvement in outcomes.

However, sceptics may say that the framework proves nothing other than that GPs will do what they are paid to do, and that it does not accurately reflect the scope of primary care. They may even go so far as to say that QOF is no more than a box-ticking exercise that has little to do with preventative medicine and even detracts from patient care.

Whatever your view, QOF is a vital aspect of income for practices, and finding ways of collecting the information in the least labour intensive and most efficient ways possible is a challenge. Many of the indicators can be achieved through the completion of questionnaires and simple vital sign measurements. Such activities can be undertaken by the patients themselves, so removing the need for clinical time and effort in achieving targets.

“Pods” allowing patients to self-service blood pressure measurements and height/weight are appearing more and more in practice and hospital waiting rooms and there is an increasing trend towards the provision of touch-screen computers that allow patients to fill in clinical questionnaires, too. Ideally, all this data is read-coded into the patient record ready for QOF auditing.

The more that the process of collecting such data can be automated, the more time can be given to the assessment of the data and as importantly, the more time that can be spent with the patient. When applied correctly, it’s obvious that QOF indicators are an opportunity for GPs and practice staff to identify patients that are at risk of developing conditions and improve the quality of care.

Hannah Lowish is marketing manager at Telehealth Solutions. To find out more about patient self-testing using Pod technology and how this can impact on the quality and outcomes framework points, contact Hannah Lowish at Telehealth Solutions on freephone 0800 8600 768 or visit