How a simple text can save thousands of lives (transcript)

A little technology combined thoughtfully with process can go a long way. Especially if they’re being used as weapons against one of the scourges of mankind….malaria.

In this interview, Jonathan Campbell, Enterprise Partner Manager at Vodafone, explains how his company worked on the World Health Organization’s Roll Back Malaria project – in conjunction with other partners - and how sometimes the simplest solutions have the most impact.

Sometimes simple solutions yield powerful results

Editor’s note: this is a transcript of a recent video interview. To watch the original interview, click here.

PEX Network: One of the hot topics in the BPM space right now is mobile. Can take me through an example of how mobile has been used to enhance processes?

Jonathan Campbell: We have a simple but innovative example where we’ve used mobile technology coupled with a business process discipline and technology to deliver a programme called SMS For Life in conjunction with the World Health Organization’s Roll Back Malaria programme. We work with the World Health Organization and one of our key enterprise partners, Novartis, along our technology partner, MatsSoft.

We focused on the problem statement that they had within Tanzania in terms of drug stock outs. Families would travel for miles to clinics to get their anti-malarial drugs that they need to combat the diseases that they have, but many would turn up and either the drugs would be out of date – it’s a perishable drug – or there might not be any stock available.

So they’d have to wait a number of days or weeks. They wouldn’t know when they would have to come back.

We worked with them to organize how we could deliver a system and a process for them to ensure that we reduced the stock out levels and people could turn up and get the drugs they required.

PEX Network: What were some of the core challenges in solving that problem?

Jonathan Campbell: I mentioned before that the drug is perishable, so there’s a finite time in terms of how long that drug could stay within a given clinic. In North Africa, the IT infrastructure is pretty non existent ; no IT infrastructure, no supply chain management.

The enterprise organizations and the Ministry of Health in Tanzania had no idea what stock levels were in the country at any given time. So those are the challenges that we had to overcome in terms of finding out what was in country and telling the relevant organizations where to deliver stock.

PEX Network: So how did you go about solving the problem?

Jonathan Campbell: In conjunction with our technology partner, MatsSoft, we looked at how we could combine the mobile technology that existed in Tanzania. Almost every clinician in the clinics had a mobile. That’s the way they converse and communicate with each other.

Secondly, we wanted to find something that we could, in real time, analyze where the stocks were, without having to have a heavy investment in technology or infrastructure to put into the clinics.

So we put a business process platform in place to look at how we could take in the supply chain, and how we would get supplies to the individual clinics on a frequent basis. Once every two weeks the local clinician would use their own mobile phone - we didn’t provide anything because usually they’d get lost, stolen or sold – and text in the stock level for the five main types of drugs.

We would take this information into our business process platform, analyze it, provide the business logic and give real time reports as to where the stocks were in the country. And we’d incentivize those individuals in the clinics by saying: You respond every week, every two weeks, and we’ll give you air time incentives. So we’ll give you $5 onto your account. That way we incentivize them to deliver the stock information on a regular basis.

PEX Network: What kind of results did you get from this project?

Jonathan Campbell: The results were brilliant. Prior to implementing the project we had stock outs of around 90% in clinics. Of the five drug types you might have a family travelling to the clinic and the stock wouldn’t be available. So in those instances we reduced it down to below 10% through the clinics, saving thousands of lives every year by people turning up and getting the drugs that they need.