England's Healthwatch organisations are now using CiviCRM, an open source solution for customer relationship management. "Open source affords access to a wide community of developers, which means that the software continues to develop and security updates and bug fixes are regularly rolled out", explains Tim Schofield, the organisation's interim systems manager.
Healthwatch England is a nationwide group of local authority financed operations and open source gives each of these organisations the freedom to use and to move between different suppliers/developers, as appropriate, Schofield says. This type of software solution also allows them to customize and adapt software to their own organisational requirements. Such solutions have no licensing costs, allowing a focus on development, hosting and support rather than on subscription, he says.
Healthwatch is part of the United Kingdom's national health service (NHS), formed in 2012. Its goal is to organise the involvement of patients and the general public in the running of NHS in England. It is a network that shares information, aiming to improve NHS services.
The organisations are now using CiviCRM, a web-based solution, replacing a mix of proprietary databases, spreadsheets and notebooks, inherited over the organisation's history. The new CRM approach offers the organisation a more-secure and hosted solution, says David Moreton, director of Circle Interactive, an ICT service provider that helped implement the software.
"Good communication is vital for transitions such as this", Moreton says. "Early training and demos helped us to apprehend how to model Healthwatch' data, and it allowed them to have a deeper understanding of the process."
Last week, Moreton was one of the speakers at CivicCon London - an annual conference for users and developers of CiviCRM.
Bristol-based Circle Interactive implemented CiviCRM for Healthwatch, organising workshops with implementation partners and future users. "These workshops allowed us to dig into the processes we needed to cover and gave us a really good idea of what data needed to be captured. Having built prototypes based on these sessions, we then ran webinars with a group of nine local Healthwatch organisations, the core pilot group."
According to Moreton, Healthwatch users are very pleased they were with their new system, and its smooth implementation process.
Healthwatch is also using a tailored version of Drupal, an open source content management system, for the organisation's websites. It allows each of the organisations to easily set-up their own websites.