Services struggling to cope with Britain’s deteriorating sexual health could be helped by a new approach to performance management underpinned by modern IT, according to a paper submitted to the Commons Health Select Committee.

In June, the committee published a report that highlighted spiralling rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and long waits for appointments at some clinics.

Appareo, a software and service firm, whose offerings include a specialist clinical application for use by all health professionals treating sexual health problems, has responded saying that waiting times could be reduced and up to 72,000 extra appointments generated by using a different approach to managing information in sexual health services.

A paper drawn up by the firm says, “Performance management is about information. Making the right information available securely to the right people at the right time irrespective of geographic location or departmental boundaries with the purpose of enabling and enhancing decision support…

”Performance management provides measurement, control and the ability to make informed decisions. The timely availability of information, the quality and breadth of information and the ability to manipulate information are all key to the delivery of performance management figures.”

The situation at clinic level is, however, far from this ideal. Director, David Jahn, who has spent two years working on systems for sexual health services, told E-Health Insider that there was no National Service Framework for the specialty so clinics around the country operated in different ways. Generally, he found that they recorded information for clinical governance purposes only and regarded the recording process as another drain on their time.

”Then we went to the public health service and found they were saying that there wasn’t enough granular information to make sense of it,” he explained.

Appareo has produced an application which uses devices such as pro-forma wizards for recording information and says that staff using the system regard it more as a decision support tool than as clinical governance recording. Users include staff at St George’s Hospital, London, the University Hospitals of Coventry and Warwick and services in North Cumbria.

Appareo calculates that, if the recording and reporting process could be streamlined across the country, a total of 1800 clinician days could be saved and that this translates into 72,000 extra appointments for patients who currently have to wait up to eight weeks for an appointment. During those waiting times, the health select committee report estimated that 30% of patients would remain sexually active and risk spreading infections.

The transfer of paper records into electronic systems could also save staff time spent looking for records.

Appareo propose combining the clinical application with a repository for the storage, management and sharing of anonymised, disaggregated information across trusts, PCTs, SHAs – or nationally.

The benefits of this would include:
• Surveillance and predictive analysis provided by information from the anonymised repository;
• Education and prevention. Surveillance data would support the provision of education, screening and contraceptive services where and when they are most needed;
• Improved patient access to treatment facilitated by shared information about the availability of appointments;
• Monitoring and setting targets such as wait times, diagnostic trends and drug cost analysis;
• Budgetary and local care planning. This would include looking at prescribing costs and maximising the effectiveness of drug spend.