Rebecca Alban, OpenLMIS Community Manager
For almost a decade the OpenLMIS software has been supporting governments in low-to middle income countries to manage their health supply chains and reduce stockouts of medicines at health facilities. As the leading digital supply chain solution in low- and middle-income countries, OpenLMIS owes much of its enduring success to the adaptability of the software and its ability to integrate with other health information systems. The ability to adapt OpenLMIS so that it can plug into any country’s health care ecosystem is an enormous benefit in terms of improving operating efficiencies, sharing data, and achieving deeper insights from analytics.
OpenLMIS is built with a micro-services architecture for shared benefit and a focus on inter-operating with existing national data systems, product catalogs, mobile applications, and warehouse management systems. For example, in Tanzania and Zambia OpenLMIS is integrated with the country’s warehouse management software. To achieve interoperability, OpenLMIS uses globally endorsed technical standards such as HL7 FHIR, IHE and GS1 (see image below).
Why is interoperability important?
Enabling the exchange of data between disparate health information systems (i.e. interoperability) builds resilient health systems and overcomes barriers to data quantity, quality, and accessibility. With logistics systems like OpenLMIS, it is specifically the alignment of supply and demand data that we focus on, because we know this crucial data can improve health outcomes and create efficiencies in the supply chain. Quite simply, systems integration is the future–we are seeing increased demand for systems integration both at the country level and from global donors who recognize both cost efficiencies and functional benefits of seamless data flow.
Integrated systems create better data for decision makers because they allow data triangulation from multiple sources. Data triangulation with OpenLMIS can provide useful insights to help supply chain program managers set their plans and budgets for the future. For example, OpenLMIS colleagues in Tanzania are using data on the number of expecting mothers attending prenatal visits in order to help predict the number of expected measles vaccinations and malaria bed nets that will be needed for the coming year. This data will enable the government to ensure that they budget for and procure adequate quantities of measles vaccine and bed nets, and ultimately increase protection of the population from preventable illnesses.
Linking systems via Interoperability
As part of our commitment to collaboration and interoperability with other tools, OpenLMIS is also a leading voice in the OpenHIE community to promote global standards for collaboration and data exchange for health and supply chain through communities such as IHE, Global Standards One (GS1) and HL7’s FHIR. As per the visual below, the OpenHIE Architecture links various national systems such as a common facility registry, programmatic reporting in a national health management information system, with local systems within the clinics, hospitals and labs.
This is the OpenHIE Architecture, a leading E-Health Architecture community in global health.
The OpenLMIS Approach to Interoperability
To achieve OpenLMIS’s goal of creating end-to-end visibility of supply chain data, OpenLMIS embraces the interoperability between different health information systems to create a continuous flow of data across the health ecosystem. OpenLMIS strives to achieve interoperability and partnerships with other adjacent systems (especially global goods) so that others can leverage supply chain functionality and information in OpenLMIS, and nobody has to reinvent the wheel.
For example, OpenLMIS recognizes the benefits of integrating with Laboratory Information Systems (LIS), and with support from Digital Square is working with I-TECH/OpenELIS to develop specifications to promote integration between OpenLMIS and OpenELIS. LIS and LMIS interoperability effectively links logistics data with laboratory services data, which can improve quantification estimates for test kits, reagents and other products, as well as inform laboratory decision-making based on stock levels for key lab commodities. Achieving interoperability between these two open source systems has the potential to boost efficiency and quality of front line clinical services.
The OpenLMIS and DHIS2 teams have an active dialogue to promote interoperability between our tools and reduce dual data entry and duplication of existing OpenLMIS capabilities. Countries have already automated the data flow from OpenLMIS into DHIS2 and are exploring other ways for our tools to communicate seamlessly.
Integration allows OpenLMIS to exchange data between different health information systems to create end-to-end visibility of supply chain data and triangulation with health service data.
With standards-based interoperability, clients can determine which systems are best for which function without giving up the ability to push and pull data across all systems for critical decision making. As OpenLMIS continues to grow and innovate in this space, we are constantly seeking out new opportunities for integrations with tools that increase access to new types of data and serve to fill existing gaps in the health system. OpenLMIS continues to strengthen and extend existing integrations with: DHIS2, multiple national warehouse management systems (ERPs), a Nextleaf’s ColdTrace platform, OpenSRP, and the Product Catalog Management Tool (PCMT).
OpenLMIS Interoperability Spotlight: Product Catalog Management Tool (PCMT)
OpenLMIS is proud to share that our OpenLMIS COVID-19 Edition is now linked with the Product Catalog Management Tool (PCMT). This achievement is an important “proof of concept” integration that we plan to build from and leverage in the future for our core software.
The PCMT is an open source tool that allows organizations to publish and manage product catalogues and interoperates with other systems using global standards including GS1. PCMT was created to ‘connect the dots’ when it comes to identifying health products between different systems, since there is often no master data to align product information across systems and organizations. For example, one national catalog may refer to latex gloves as “gloves” while another may say “medical gloves”, and another “box of 50 pairs of gloves”; PCMT streamlines this data so that product information can easily be communicated via different sources.The PCMT serves to ‘connect the broken links’ so that global and national supply chain catalogs are aligned and speaking the same language
PCMT helps health care supply chains work for everyone by facilitating product information management, master data management and interoperability. Integration with PCMT creates consistent product identifiers for products across the supply chain to:
- Streamline master data management
- Reconcile inconsistent product information
- Generate useful data and reports across various systems and stakeholders
The tool has great features for connecting, organizing, and managing this key reference data, and is very user-friendly. By integrating OpenLMIS with PCMT, we connect OpenLMIS to robust product data used throughout the supply chain and health enterprise. This synergy bolsters the quality and efficiency of supply chains in OpenLMIS, and unlocks further insights into how supply chains are working for the health of their clients.
For more information about PCMT:
How to get involved:
- If you are interested in systems interoperability and working either in the supply chain or health arena, we encourage you to participate in the OpenHIE community and/or the OpenHIE Supply Chain Sub community