Implementing an Integrated Pharmaceutical Management Information System for Antiretrovirals and Other Medicines: Lessons From Namibia
The success of the Namibian government’s “treatment for all” approach to control and stop the country’s HIV epidemic is dependent on an uninterrupted supply of antiretrovirals (ARVs) for people living with HIV. The public health system in Namibia, however, was constrained by an inefficient paper-based pharmaceutical information system resulting in unreliable and inaccessible data, contributing to persistent stock-outs of ARVs and other essential pharmaceuticals. This article describes the incremental implementation of an integrated pharmaceutical management information system to provide timely and reliable commodity and patient data for decision making in Namibia’s national antiretroviral therapy (ART) program and the Ministry of Health and Social Services (MoHSS).
The system has 4 interlinked information tools: (1) the Electronic Dispensing Tool (EDT) that manages the dispensing and inventory of antiretrovirals at service delivery points; (2) the EDT national database, which facilitates the flow, storage, and collation of ART data at the central level; (3) the Facility Electronic Stock Card used to manage pharmaceutical stocks and report inventory movement data to the national level; and (4) the Pharmaceutical Management Information Dashboard that integrates all 3 tools plus the warehouse management tool used by the central and regional medical stores into 1 dashboard that serves as a platform for the analysis and dissemination of pharmaceutical information throughout the health system. Implementing the pharmaceutical management information system was a prolonged and complicated process, with key challenges related to user acceptance and human resource constraints.
The integrated pharmaceutical management information system enables Namibia to collect more than 90% of transactional commodity and patient dispensing data from more than 85% of all ART sites. Health managers use information from the system for medicine quantification decisions and to improve pharmaceutical service delivery. The MoHSS and its partners in the national ART program use the information for monitoring the World Health Organization early warning indicators for HIV drug resistance; ART defaulter tracing; and for planning, reporting, and research purposes. Namibia’s pharmaceutical management information system demonstrates the feasibility and benefits of integrating related tools while maintaining their specialized functionality to address country-specific information and inventory management needs.