When Communication Really is Key; How a New Program Could Reconnect the Supply Chain and Keep Health Care Clinics Stocked
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), out of the close to the 1 million health centers in the developing world 40 percent of them are stocked out of essential supplies or medications.

In some countries, people walk three days to reach the nearest health clinic only to learn that they are out of stock of their medication. At the same time, health workers admit that they have life saving medications gathering dust and expiring on their shelves because their patients do not need them.

Reliefwatch is a platform for heath care organizations in the developing world to track the supplies in clinics and pharmacies. All clinics need to partake in Reliefwatch is a basic cellphone, which most clinic workers already own. The program involves no new hardware or installations and because all it requires is workers to punch in their inventory numbers into the cellphone, the training process is fast and simple.

Reliefwatch’s method is simple. An automatic call is sent to participating clinics whose staff enter their supply and medication inventories when prompted (Reliefwatch uses multilingual support systems). All the collected data is stored in their cloud system making it available in real-time anywhere in the world.

The information collected through Reliefwatch allows suppliers and NGOs to more accurately distribute medical supplies and medications. So instead of blindly shipping out supplies to clinics every three weeks, suppliers can effectively re-stock clinics based on their needs.

Daniel Yu, the founder of Reliefwatch, says his nonprofit has reduced stock-outs to 10 percent of current levels. Suppliers are more aware of which clinics need which drugs and facilities that have excess items can give them to clinics in need of them.

Reconnecting the supply-chain has a powerful effect. Suppliers can feel confident that their provisions are reaching places that need them, clinics and health care workers can adequately serve their patients and patients can depend on their medication being available when they need it.

Brittney Dimond


Sources: Next City, Relief Watch
Photo: Flickr