Tracking essential medicines at the last mile with mHealth solutions
Kathryn Cicerchi, Dimagi
January 12, 2016;
3 min read
In Tanzania, getting essential drugs from the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare to a vastly-rural population remains a critical challenge. The Medical Stores Department, or MSD, is responsible for delivering these drugs and medical supplies to approximately 5,000 public health facilities across nine zones and 169 districts.
Along its routes, MSD’s truck drivers encounter challenges such as muddy roads, adverse weather conditions, and breakdowns. Supervisors have reported losing touch with staff for days following breakdowns or encounters with a particularly bad road. And drivers, who rely on a health facility’s reception committee to verify each of their deliveries, have reported significant delays because the facility staff didn’t know they were coming.
Supply trucks stuck in muddy terrain. Photo credit: Herman Ansgar, MSD
So is there an mHealth solution for tracking shipments of essential drugs across Tanzania’s approximately 5,000 public health facilities?
With seed money from USAID’s Saving Lives at Birth grant, Dimagi worked with MSD and John Snow, Inc. to design and deploy a mobile application that enhances ILSGateway, the Ministry of Health’s current inventory reporting system.
The innovative new project arms truck drivers with Android tablets and the ILSGateway Truck Driver App, allowing them to report on mileage, routes, road conditions, unexpected stops and more, providing MSD with real-time data on driver whereabouts and shipment status. The app increases transparency between drivers and supervisors, collects data for future projects like route optimization, provides a mechanism for delivering facility feedback to MSD, and enables MSD to perform their own audits.
Here’s an example:
Using the app, a driver logs when he begins his deliveries, selecting his route and recording his odometer reading, the type of truck he’s driving and the number of boxes loaded. Since drivers are often delayed when facilities are not ready for the delivery, the app also triggers an SMS to all facilities along the route, helping ensure the staff are ready to receive and verify their shipment.
Upon arrival, the driver again records his odometer reading and reports any difficulties he encountered along the way such as traffic, rain, or muddy roads. He also reports whether he had to wait and for how long. As the shipment is unloaded and verified, the driver updates the system with the delivery status and can easily call or SMS the next facility to tell the staff of his impending arrival. The driver completes this process for each of the deliveries along his route. The app includes forms for other stops such as for refueling or for personal stops like for rest and food breaks.
From MSD headquarters, supervisors can log in to CommCareHQ and get a real-time update on driver whereabouts, delivery status and other data reports, such as trip summaries.
Today, the ILSGateway Truck Driver App has been deployed to 25 drivers covering close to 2,800 facilities, constituting over half of all public health facilities in Tanzania. This is just one way Dimagi is using CommCare to help organizations to support frontline workers and ensure delivery of essential drugs down to the last mile.
Want to learn more about mHealth solutions for supply and logistics at the last mile? Click below!