Marked Improvements for the Organization

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Joint Clinical Research Centre (Photo: Julius Kasujja)

Joint Clinical Research Centre
Uganda

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A short drive south from Kampala, Uganda on Entebbe Road brings you to the sprawling, hillside campus of the Joint Clinical Research Centre (JCRC).

Founded in 1990 to respond to the growth of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, JCRC provides essential clinical services to Ugandans living with HIV. JCRC also provides laboratory services in-house and to partners in Uganda and across southern and eastern Africa, and conducts research to continually improve the global HIV/AIDS evidence base.

In the years since its founding, JCRC’s mission and scope shifted quickly; however, the leadership of Professor Peter Mugyeni and others, was unable to scale JCRC’s financial management, information and communication technology (ICT), and board governance capacity in response.

At the time, JCRC’s financial manuals did not reflect the finance team’s daily responsibilities and information management systems were disorganized. When patients arrived at the clinic, they faced long waiting times and hassles during check-in from an inadequate patient management system that did not integrate well with other ICT.

If patients forgot to bring their patient identification cards, it became difficult for the staff to correctly identify the patients in the patient care management system because the system duplicated data, generated inaccurate reports, and did not synchronize with the invoicing system for patient billing. For some patients, the outdated system means more time waiting for services, while for others the consequences can be more dire, as JCRC’s Chief Programmer explains, “in the event that the patient lost their card, it would not be easy for you to know who the patient is, and therefore giving the patient the right drug would be a problem.”

Around this time, the USAID-funded Leadership, Management, and Governance (LMG) Project partnered with JCRC to conduct an organizational capacity assessment that helped determine priority gaps. As a result of the assessment, the LMG Project and JCRC worked together to strengthen financial management systems, integrate information management systems, and formalize JCRC’s governing board processes.

Providing financial management training for non-finance managers at JCRC helped them take greater ownership over budgeting and financial reporting. This made financial data more accessible for senior leaders, enabling them to make smarter decisions.

Similarly, the LMG Project assisted JCRC to update and upgrade information management software across their clinical, lab, and financial departments. These improvements integrated the systems, allowing JCRC’s staff to share information across the three. Now, when a clinician wanted to order lab tests for their patients, the test order and lab results were both available in the consulting room, saving both time and money.

Furthermore, after members of the JCRC board of directors participated in governance training with the LMG Project, they soon recognized the need for a board secretary and standard processes. Holding meetings more often and reporting out from them helped the board members be more accountable to JCRC’s mission: to conduct quality medical research and provide sustainable HIV/AIDS care.

With the full implementation of these changes, everyone—from patients, staff, and leaders—can be proud and confident in the services provided by and received at JCRC. In the words of JCRC Deputy Executive Director, Dr. Cissy Kityo, partnering with the LMG Project brought “marked improvements” for the organization.