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The Department of Health (DoH) and Vodacom have successfully deployed a custom-built mobile application (app) in 3 126 clinics across South Africa to monitor drug stock levels and reduce drug stock-outs. 

The Stock Visibility Solution (SVS), a mobile platform developed by Vodacom through its long-standing partnership with NDoH, is now used in all urban and rural South African clinics across eight provinces. These clinics now have the fully deployed and functional SVS.

'Mobile technology remains a powerful tool for us to successfully address South Africa’s healthcare challenges.'

- Vuyani Jarana

Speaking at the media launch of the SVS mobile application in Midrand, Minister of Health Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, said: ‘The Department of Health is using the latest technology to improve healthcare service delivery and patient outcomes in South Africa. The Stock Visibility Solution enables us to increase access to medicine by allowing the Department of Health to track critical supply chains at any given time.We are able to monitor real-time visibility of stock levels in clinics to ensure that South Africans always have access to the healthcare they need, particularly for those patients who rely on chronic medication.’

Making strides 

The NDoH first partnered with the Vodacom in 2013 to develop and deploy SVS to improve the drug supply chain network in South Africa. Prior to the development of the app, the NDoH relied on manual processes to manage drug stock levels in South Africa’s primary healthcare system, as not all clinics are equipped with ICT systems. 

During this period, stock-outs of critical medicines in clinics arose largely as a result of the inability to visibly monitor myriad stock levels across the country. This was also complicated by delays in stock order deliveries to pharmaceutical depots and inadequate notice periods pertaining to low stock levels. The mobile technology provides a solution to these challenges.

Mobile tackles healthcare challenges

Vodacom Business Chief Officer Vuyani Jarana says: ‘Mobile technology remains a powerful tool for us to successfully address South Africa’s healthcare challenges and the proliferation of smartphones in particular is changing the notion of healthcare delivery. The Department of Health approached Vodacom to develop a solution to clinic drug stock-outs challenges, which historically was a major supply chain challenge. Vodacom responded with an innovative mobile application that is being used to further social good in our country by delivering quality healthcare to all South Africans. This is an example of public-private collaboration at its best and we will continue to invest in technology and partner with key stakeholders to make a difference in healthcare delivery.’

The SVS allows health clinic dispensaries to report on stock levels on the shelves through graphs and heat maps. The app also allows for scheduled SMS notifications and automated alerts for reduced stock levels. SVS uses data aggregated from the clinics to produce reports via both SMS and email, which are sent to district and provincial government management. The data in turn enables pharmacy supply chain management to improve the accuracy and efficiency of stock distribution, which has had a proven impact in increasing access to quality healthcare.

‘Proper stock management is essential for providing medicines to patients when and where they need them,’ said Bada Pharasi, Management Sciences for Health (MSH) Country Representative. ‘This is especially important for people living with HIV because treatment is a lifelong commitment and adherence is critical to good health outcomes. RxSolution is an electronic pharmaceutical management system designed to manage medicine supplies from procurement to dispensing. It has impacted positively on the daily practices of hospital pharmacy staff, who have expressed satisfaction in the way they have managed to reduce patient waiting times, among other benefits.’

South Africa has the world’s largest antiretroviral treatment (ART) programme with an estimated 3.1 million people are receiving treatment as of the end of March 2015. With the new ‘Test and Treat’ antiretroviral (ARV) treatment strategy announced by Dr Motsoaledi in May this year, the expected increase in patients receiving ARVs will undoubtedly place further pressure on the country’s medicine supply systems to deliver the volumes of treatment needed to cater for our people's treatment needs. This innovation comes at an opportune moment when South Africa requires advanced technological solutions to its challenges.

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