New Electronic Dispensing Tool Strengthens HIV & AIDS Management in Namibia
An uninterrupted and reliable supply of essential medicines including antiretrovirals (ARVs) remains crucial to the optimum management of HIV infection and other chronic diseases. The availability of accurate information on current stocks enables the estimation of future requirements.
Namibia’s Ministry of Health and Social Services (MoHSS) conducted an assessment in 2003 on the public sector’s pharmaceutical supply system, which highlighted constraints in expanding the availability of the antiretroviral therapy (ART) treatment program to the six facilities that were in operation at the time. The challenges identified were: unavailability of data for ARV quantification and monitoring, lack of uniformity in recording and reporting HIV data across the country, difficulties in monitoring ART patients, and unavailability of standardized pharmaceutical care for ART.
The US Agency for International Development (USAID) funded Management Sciences for Health’s Strengthening Pharmaceutical Systems (SPS) Program in Namibia to provide support for the development of the Electronic Dispensing Tool (EDT) to improve ART commodity tracking and patient management in pharmacies in Namibia. The tool was launched and handed over to the Deputy Minister of Ministry of Health and Social Services in 2010.
SPS assisted in creating standard operating procedures for pharmacy ART services; customizing an access database to capture, store, and manage dispensing information; developing training materials; training users; providing desktop computers, printers, and other equipment to health facilities; providing ongoing user support; and developing a national database (NDB) to serve as a national enquiry tool.
EDT is an electronic pharmacy tool that enables health workers at the facility level to efficiently manage their patients by planning appointments, scheduling for follow-up visits, monitoring patients’ adherence to treatment, monitoring stock levels, and quantifying ARV needs. The aim of the tool is to strengthen ART stock management and decision-making by providing pharmaceutical information, which will ensure the continuous availability of ARVs at the facility level and prevent treatment interruptions.
Since the tool was developed, it has been distributed to 47 health facilities. Each computer is installed with the EDT and a module to manage outpatients. The NDB enables monitoring of ART access, implementation of programs, and monitors patients’ mobility at the national level. Thus far, 110 pharmacy personnel have been trained in ART dispensing and use of the EDT.
The EDT ensures efficient dispensing processes that enable the pharmacists to spend less time on stock management and spend more time with patients, thereby improving adherence to treatment. The tool is optimal, cost-effective, sustainable, and successful implementation of the ART program with less waste due to expired products
The EDT package that was given to the MoHSS included a user training DVD and the services of an information technology (IT) systems technician, who is responsible for routine system maintenance and user support. A mobile EDT tool using a hand held scanner has been developed and is currently being used in rural areas in Namibia.