Guest blog: Revolutionising last-mile medical supply distribution across Africa
Access to healthcare and medication is a major issue in Africa and is often the result of many compounding factors, including long queues at public hospital pharmacies, severe backlogs, the serious strain on staff, and lack of equipment, infrastructure, and medicine itself.
Patients who rely on public healthcare often have to take a day off work to collect their chronic medicines, which has stark implications on their health and the economy.
Right ePharmacy, in conjunction with the Department of Health and BBD – and leveraging BBD’s deep expertise in cloud and software – devised a solution. The ‘Collect & Go’ smart locker services in various locations across Africa could connect to the patients, depots, and last-mile sites. The temperature-controlled Collect & Go lockers safely store pre-dispensed medicine parcels and facilitate patient parcel collection. Patients can access lockers to collect their medicine using an OTP (one-time-PIN) received via text messages. This solution reduces the need for queuing or support staff. Since most users live in rural areas, the project presented many challenges including deploying smart lockers in regions with little to no connectivity.
To combat this, BBD stepped in as software partner to Right ePharmacy to provide a robust technological mobile solution that could bring Right ePharmacy’s vision of solving last-mile medical distribution to life. BBD architected a hybrid data transfer approach, internally referred to as ‘disconnected connectivity’, which uses a mixture of mobile, fixed-line and proprietary transfer methods to keep the data hosted in the AWS cloud near real-time. The application relays data connectivity with no internet connectivity by synchronising data between the locker and the devices during locker loading. The mobile devices act as transport mechanisms using BBD-designed synchronisation software and all data is uploaded when the devices have connectivity again.
The solution also includes access to information dashboard tools that create a single dashboard across disparate systems, providing Right ePharmacy keen insights and advanced analytics into users’ behaviour and secure, easily accessible data and its management.
Leveraging tech for good
With those using Right ePharmacy’s solution often being the most at risk for discontinuing their medical treatment for various reasons, the solution includes a message functionality run through the AWS cloud, whereby users receive text message reminders of upcoming collection dates. This messaging function assists with patient retention and enables early identification and intervention of patients at risk of non-adherence. Early intervention leads to positive clinical outcomes and effective patient data management while enabling Right ePharmacy to remotely monitor and manage dispensing units. The solution also allows for databases to auto-sync via mobile connections in the remote areas where the dispensing units can do the most good.
A solution of this nature – which brings together innovation in the health space and technology to solve real-world problems by providing much-needed accessibility to medication for patients, is an initiative that BBD is proud to support. BBD continues looking to the future and as part of a commitment to people and the planet, will continue to partake in projects that have tangible impacts on service delivery.
Andre de Witt, Director at BBD
Local Public Services Innovation: Creating a catalyst for change
techUK, in collaboration with its Local Public Services Committee, has published a new report making the case for enhanced digital innovation adoption across the UK’s local public services to improve citizens’ lives. The report, ‘Local Public Services Innovation: Creating a catalyst for change’