Using mobile and electronic mapping technologies, SMS for Life is eliminating drug stock-outs and improving access to health care.
Maintaining adequate supplies of medicine is challenging in remote areas. SMS for Life reduces the risk of essential medicines selling out at health centres by sending weekly stock request messages to the mobile phones of registered health facility workers. They then send information back for free by SMS. District officers use the messages to decide on orders and redistribution of medicines between sites. This helps to eliminate stock-outs, increases access to health care, and reduces deaths.
In Tanzania, the pilot programme focused on anti-malarial stocks, which are critical because medication must be taken within 18-24 hours of the onset of symptoms to be fully effective. The scheme reached 1.2 million people in 228 villages.
Building on the success of the first project, Novartis have partnered with Kaduna State Ministry of Health and Vodacom to create SMS for Life 2.0, using smartphones and tablets to address key operational challenges at peripheral healthcare facilities in Nigeria. Local healthcare workers will be able to track stock levels of essential anti-malarials, vaccines, and HIV, TB, and leprosy treatments, before sending notifications to district medical officers when stock levels drop. The program is also monitoring surveillance parameters of malaria, maternal and infant deaths and seven other diseases, including measles, yellow fever and cholera. In addition, SMS for Life 2.0 will enable training of healthcare workers in local facilities using on-demand eLearning modules.
Why you should care
Poor tracking of drug supplies leads to unnecessary deaths from preventable and curable diseases like malaria. SMS for Life is protecting the population from the risk of reaching a healthcare facility that has run out of stock of vital anti-malarial drugs. The system reached 10,000 health care facilities in Tanzania, and is now being rolled out in other African countries.