Better Health: Embracing Technology in Medicine Supply Chain Management
The health sector is undoubtedly one of the crucial areas that impact a country’s ability to progress and develop. Even though Malawi has made progress in improving essential health services, there are still many gaps and challenges that need to be addressed. Management of medical supplies is one of those – that if managed well, can positively impact the wellbeing of people within the health facilities
However, managing medical supplies can be a tiresome task for health workers, including filling forms that take hours to complete and delivering them to the relevant authorities. To expedite and simplify this process, Malawi’s Ministry of Health and UNDP have adopted a new system to improve medical supply chain management and accountability of medicines and other medical supplies in the country.
This can only be possible through complete visibility into the supply chain system from central warehouses to the patients that consume these commodities.
The system is called the Electronic Health Information Network System (Ehin). Ehin allows doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and other Health Care Workers to track medicines from the Central Medical Stores Trust up to the end-user. The system applies mobile technology to collect and transmit data in real-time. Thereby, simplifying the process for health care workers to report on health commodities in stock and in need of resupply.
Health workers will be given a username and password to access the system. Ministry of Health officials will know who has accessed the system, and changes made each time. Health Workers that have undergone this training have been given smartphones to use to access the system.
Ehin is being rolled out in Ntchisi, Blantyre and Rumphi and will be expanded to all health facilities and bridging the information gap between facilities and patients.
So far, 680 health workers from the three districts have been trained on how to use the system when ordering and dispensing medical supplies. Ministry of Health, with support from UNDP, organized hands-on training where participants were given access to the system and taken through all the steps to order and dispense medical supplies.
The Director of Health Technical Support Services in the Ministry of Health, Godfrey Kadewere, said it’s time the ministry embraced technology to improve supply chain management so that everyone benefits from it. He said the Ministry has been struggling with stockouts, diversions of medicine, and drug theft.
He said Ministry of Health needs a strong supply chain management that is seamless from top to bottom to track down medical supplies.
“Ehin will address the gap that was there within the supply chain management. With coming of the system, everyone will be able to go into the system and monitor what is happening. When I am sitting in my office, I should be able to log in into the system and access information for each health facility”. Said Mr. Kadewere.
Mr. Kadewere further added that the system will improve accountability, transparency, expiry of medicines and reduce stockouts. This will improve patient satisfaction, improving health outcomes in the process.
Frankson Chibwato is one of the health workers who has been trained and has started using the Ehin System. He works as a Drug Store Clerk at Chinguluwe Health Centre in Ntchisi.
Concurring with the Director of Health Technical Support Services, Chibwato said Ehin is a system that will reduce unethical practices since everyone who has rights can access it to track medicines from District Health Offices, facilities up to Village Health Clinics.
“The system will be able to detect and show disparities thereby improving service delivery. There will be trust between health workers and community members now. At first, they thought we are lying or stealing when we tell them there are no commodities. But the system will improve all this”.
Chibwato added that the system has also improved teamwork. Doctors, Nurses, Pharmacists and Drug Store Clerks can work together and are able to share information leading to effective treatment of patients thus improving service delivery.
Health Workers in areas with limited connectivity will still be able to access and enter data offline. Once connected to a network, the data will automatically be updated.
This technology has emerged as an opportunity to improve service delivery and patient satisfaction. Districts Hospitals will be able to plan and ensure they have everything they need.
The Ehin system is expected to be rolled out to all districts.