Long distances and remote places can create difficulties in logistics for organizations and governments to distribute and keep a stable stock of much needed medications. Now a collaboration between IBM, Novartis, and Vodafone has developed a mobile phone messaging/distribution system that helps automate the process. The SMS for Life project is currently being used in Tanzania across 135 villages and it covers more than a million people to help deliver Artemisinin-based Combination Therapy (ACT) drugs and Quinine injectables for malaria treatment.
Vodafone, together with its technology partner MatsSoft, developed a system in which healthcare staff at each facility receives automated SMS messages, which prompt them to check the remaining stock of anti-malarial drugs each week. Using toll-free numbers, staff reply with an SMS to a central database system hosted in the United Kingdom, providing details of stock levels, and deliveries can be made before supplies run out at local health centres.
During the first few weeks of the pilot, the number of health facilities with stock-outs in one district alone, was reduced by over 75 percent. The early success of the SMS for Life pilot project has the Tanzanian authorities interested in implementing the solution across the rest of the country. Tanzania has around 5,000 clinics, hospitals and dispensaries, but at any one time, as many as half could potentially be out of stock of anti-malarial drugs.
IBM press release: Saving Lives with SMS for Life