Johannesburg - According to Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi, gone are the days when he'd get a feeling of “impending disaster” or “crisis” after finding out about drug stock-outs in media headlines.
On Thursday, the ministry and cellular service provider Vodacom launched a mobile application that will put the control back in the hands of health practitioners and the department by tracking medical drug stock-outs and availability through the Stock Visibility System.
The custom-built app, praised as being an example of successful public/private partnership, has been successfully introduced in 3 126 primary healthcare facilities across eight of the country's provinces – with the exception of the Western Cape.
Prior to the development of the app, the national Department of Health relied on manual processes to report medicine availability.
“In my budget speech in May I announced that the system would be deployed at all our clinics within three months. Today I am happy to inform you we have met and exceeded our own target, as the system has been deployed in just two months and is active. This has enabled us to ensure national-level oversight of medicine availability,” said Motsoaledi.
How does the app work?
“It enables information relevant to stock management to be captured using facility specific smartphones.
"It's capable of capturing information for all contracted essential medicines available at primary healthcare clinics, including ARV (antiretroviral) and TB (tuberculosis) medicines.
"The data is captured by clinic staff and is automatically uploaded to a central, online repository or cloud,” the minister explained.
Motsoaledi continued: “From this cloud, the information is consolidated in real time and can be presented in diverse reporting formats structured to meet the needs of clinics to improve demand planning and monitoring.”
The system was initially piloted in 605 primary healthcare clinics in KwaZulu-Natal and 478 clinics in Limpopo in 2014 and 2015 respectively. It was used to monitor the availability of ARV, TB and vaccine stocks. Over that period, the overall number of stock-outs reported in KZN decreased by 46 percent for ARVs, 49 percent for TB medicines and 14 percent for vaccines, according to the minister.
In Limpopo, the overall decrease in stock-outs reported last year was 66 percent for ARVs, 49 percent for TB medicines and 42 percent for vaccines.
And although he noted the power of mobile technology, Vodacom chief executive Vuyani Jarana said: “Technology is one aspect, but human capital is key.”
Motsoaledi chuckled: “I’m happy now that (if a stock-out occurs), I will know before the media knows.”