This story originally appeared on the VillageReach blog on June 19, 2018.
Reposted with permission from VillageReach.
On any given day, you may find Benat Kalebe organizing his storeroom or dispensing medicines at the Ntchisi District Hospital. He may be working in the hospital’s different wards, providing support for the nurses and doctors while keeping a close eye on the stock levels of the medicines they use. But Benat is more than the hospital’s pharmacy technician. He is a conduit for life-saving medicines for 16 health facilities throughout Ntchisi District in Malawi.
Every month, health workers send Benat paper forms reporting on the medicine stocks at their health facility: medicines they’ve used, medicines that have expired, and medicines that are out of stock. He is then responsible for entering the information from these paper forms into a new online system and placing orders with the Central Medical Stores Trust (CMST).
In 2017, the Malawi Ministry of Health with support from Chemonics introduced the version 3 series of OpenLMIS – a web-based, open source electronic logistics system – to enhance the availability of life-saving medicines across the country. Benat has already seen its impact.
Increasing data quality
“We had quality data the first month using OpenLMIS, which was something I was also striving for.”
To provide useful and accurate data, the OpenLMIS software requires a complete data set and has built-in data validation. In the previous paper-based system, a user could enter any value, causing potential inaccuracies and making it so reports and data could not be used to make informed decisions. With OpenLMIS, Benat shares, “it is really helping to solve problems. We are using it to see stock imbalances and relocating products based on the data.”
Strengthening supportive supervision
Because of the increased demand for data, OpenLMIS has encouraged more communication between Benat and staff at the health facilities he supports. When data from the facilities they manage is incomplete or unclear, Benat feels empowered to reach out to his contacts for clarification. He also has a better idea of where health facilities could use additional support and training and uses this opportunity to improve the support he gives to the health centers.
Benat takes great pleasure in celebrating the successes of the health facilities he supervises, as he sees data quality improving and facilities using lessons learned to support their neighbors.
Improving the user experience
Benat has seen how OpenLMIS supports his work. “It’s a good system,” he says, “it’s very user-friendly.” Because OpenLMIS is web-based, it can be accessed from any computer without specialized software. When there is a power outage, Benat can continue working from a laptop instead of waiting for power for the pharmacy’s desktop computer.
OpenLMIS also allows Benat to share his responsibilities with his fellow pharmacy technicians – saving time as they divide the workload for the district. Each OpenLMIS user has an individual login, providing additional layers of security and reducing the potential for abuse or fraud when ordering medicines.
As one of the first groups of health professionals trained on this software in Malawi, Benat has been enlisted to train others. “I had a great interest to learn more,” he says excitedly, “I enjoy the logistics part of it. I’m more of a logistician myself.”
Through training others and learning the software himself, Benat has become a valuable resource, inspiring the use of data for decision-making at the district level. Working with District Health Office and District Medical Officers, Benat has fostered support for OpenLMIS and better commodity reporting in Ntchisi District.
OpenLMIS is allowing passionate, talented health professionals like Benat to actively increase access to essential medicines throughout Malawi. OpenLMIS is used in all 28 districts and the 5 central hospitals – providing an improved logistics management information system for health facilities across the country.
The OpenLMIS Initiative’s mission is to make powerful LMIS software available in low-resource environments – providing high-quality logistics management to improve health commodity distribution in low- and middle-income countries. OpenLMIS increases data visibility, helping supply chain managers identify and respond to commodity needs, particularly at health facilities where lack of data significantly impacts the availability of key medicines and vaccines.
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