Electronic Dispensing Tool Relieves Paperwork Burden for Pharmacists in Namibia

 {Photo credit: SIAPS Namibia staff/MSH.}A health worker in Namibia using the Electronic Dispensing Tool (EDT).Photo credit: SIAPS Namibia staff/MSH.

When a pharmaceutical information management tool was adopted in Namibia, not only did its functionality improve health service delivery, but it also eased the burden on healthcare workers. Although HIV incidence is dropping, roughly 13 percent of adults in Namibia were infected with HIV in 2012. In some areas of the country, however, prevalence is much higher. In the Oshana region, about 28 percent of adults were living with HIV in 2010. According to the Ministry of Health and Social Services, Namibia is continuing to see a reduction in new HIV infections, but the country still faces challenges in their public health response to the epidemic, including a lack of, and over-burdened, skilled health workers.

When Greatjoy Mazibuko started working as the pharmacist in charge of the Oshakati Intermediate Hospital antiretroviral therapy (ART) pharmacy in July 2004, the pharmacy often closed late to distribute medications and update patient and stock information. Even with the support of other healthcare workers, the ART pharmacy staff would regularly leave two hours past the hospital closing time. In addition to long and busy weekdays, Greatjoy also had to work weekends and holidays to collate patient information to prepare monthly reports.

Later that same year, Greatjoy worked with a team that identified the need for an electronic patient management tool. 

With support from Management Sciences for Health (MSH) and funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the Electronic Dispensing Tool (EDT) was piloted and adopted at the Oshakati Intermediate Hospital and four other health facilities in Namibia in 2005.

Trained by MSH, Greatjoy helped the ART pharmacy adopt three modules of EDT: the patient management module, the stock management module, and the reporting module for the ART monthly report. The patient management module was equipped to carry out patient, medicine, and regimen registration, as well as provide baseline and outcomes for CD4 counts, viral load, and adherence. Additionally, this module could track upcoming patient appointments, which meant pharmacy staff could prepare medicines ahead of time for patient visits. The stock management module tracks stock take and can do quantification calculations. The reporting module automatically generates the ART monthly reports that Greatjoy used to spend his weekends writing.

According to Greatjoy, the improvements in pharmaceutical services after the adoption of EDT were clear. While it took some time to capture patient and medication information in EDT at the patient’s first visit, each subsequent visit built on an existing patient profile. This reduced the time needed to capture patient information and dispense medicines during visits, which made Greatjoy and the ART pharmacy staff more available to provide quality patient counseling.

Once EDT was used at other sites, a national database with unique patient ID numbers allowed for easy tracking across Namibia. Now, when patients move between sites for work or other reasons, their HIV treatment will not suffer. Additionally, EDT’s reporting module eliminated the need for staff to manually compile information for monthly reports. This functionality lifted the reporting burden from Greatjoy and other pharmacy staff so that they could provide patients with the type of care and services they needed.

Learn more about the Electronic Dispensing Tool (EDT)

Greatjoy Mazibuko now works with the Systems for Improved Access to Pharmaceuticals and Services (SIAPS) Program at MSH.

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