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The electronic patient record (EPR) software used by sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services has functionality that varies significantly and many are unable to meet all the patient and staff requirements; consequently, there is a real need to complement the EPR systems with additional information technology (IT) solutions. A successful IT solution needs to start with a pressing problem that can be clearly defined. Table 1 shows nine different problems that have been addressed in the last 5 years using a range of off-the-shelf and bespoke IT solutions.
Table 1 describes the problem we have addressed, the current solutions, the IT solutions that have been implemented, the impact measured and the future plans for these solutions. Many of the ideas for the IT solutions have come either from published literature,1 meeting entrepreneurs, software companies or seeing solutions work outside the context of healthcare. Funding has been via a department's business cases or from external sources that are cited in table 1. In addition to solving specific problems, the use of IT enables the collection of data to understand your service in greater detail, which in turn enables the service to continue to improve the patient experience.
The advantages of off-the-shelf solutions are that many of the bugs have been ironed out, the functionality is clearly defined, the risk is relatively low and the cost is defined. The disadvantages are that some solutions are not designed for the healthcare space and their information governance needs to be reviewed, they may lack the flexibility your service requires and intellectual property ownership of improvements usually resides with the provider. Bespoke solutions on the other hand require more funding and there is a real risk of failure; however, they are flexible and can be built to readily address the problem at hand.
Finally, having a clear problem, IT solution and funding are requisite but not sufficient to create a successful IT solution. The final ingredient is having a culture that accepts change as well as leaders and followers who work together to test, improve and embed the solution.2
The author would like to thank all the people who have helped to develop and implement these service improvements.
Twitter Follow Anatole Menon Johansson at @SXTHealthCIC
Competing interests The author is a director for both SXT Health CIC and SH:24 CIC.
Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
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