I enjoyed reading Dr Nigel Watson's article on setting up a practice intranet (Guidelines in Practice, May 2001, Vol 4(5): 87). We went through the process last year, and I agree that it is easy to do and improves communication within the primary care team. I would like to add a couple of comments.
When planning the site, it is important to involve all practice staff, otherwise there is a risk that some will not use the site because the information it contains may not be of interest or relevance to them. Also, updating the various pages can be difficult for a single person, and sharing that responsibility not only decreases your workload but also encourages team work.
Two things that we considered important to have on our intranet were information for locums and agreed Read codes for common conditions so that we could retrieve data from the clinical system more easily when audits were carried out.
Pages can benefit from the addition of some attractive features, such as pictures or moving menus. I have found many interesting 'gadgets' at http://java.webdeveloper.com/
A practice intranet does not need to have everything in it. Sometimes, quite good protocols are available from internet sites (e.g. cancer referral guidelines from www.doh.gov.uk/cancer/referral.htm) – there is no need to reinvent the wheel. If the intranet is connected to the web, internet connections can be a bonus.
Finally, if the pages are too simple, users have to navigate through many pages to get where they want. By dividing the intranet into areas, and displaying those areas in a corner on every page, users can get to the desired page more quickly.
Dr Pablo Millares Martin, GP, Leeds
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