Strathmore whizz kids offer medical supplies solution
Sometime ago, the Ministry of Health and Sanitation asked Strathmore University to come up with an innovation that would help the government track stock levels and keep instant records on medication and supplies in all hospitals and dispensaries in Kenya as well as update on deficits to allow timely replenishing.
Jackson Kariuki and his then two classmates at Strathmore University took up the challenge and developed a gadget that would help dispensaries order medical supplies from the government through the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa).
Our concept is called Health Commodities Management Platform (HCMP) that works in collaboration with the ministry of Health and the Clinton Health Access Initiative to address the inadequacies in access to healthcare through the use of technology to strengthen in-country health system, Mr Kariuki told the Business Daily on the sidelines of an ICT conference held at Strathmore University last week.
The concept has diversified the mode of medical supply across the country, helping deliver needed medication and saving lives.
The services can be accessed online or through a mobile phone.
The automated gadget relays the shortfall in medication to Kemsa, replacing the manual process that took time and exposed the data to distortion.
We started off as three members but due to different structures under the same project everyone is independent handling various segments, says the former student of Business Information Technology.
The work involves taking stock in health centres and hospitals and updating the same on the system for easy follow up.
It also involves creating alerts about the stock levels in all health facilities. The government is thus able to know when the facilities are running out of supplies and to replenish on time.
The system reconciles the stock count online and issues this data to the service points, and auto-quantifies the supplies and places the orders online.
The chain involves a health facility that updates its supply delivery online and sends an email to the district pharmacist, who approves the order online and sends it to Kemsa which later disburses the commodity.
So far, 21 health facilities in Nairobi are using the system as well as others in Mombasa, Kwale and Kilifi.
The government facilitates the implementation of the system while the partners help in the running of the service centres, coordinated through the Centre for Research, Innovation and Technology at the Strathmore University.
The response has been fulfilling given the duration the system has been in the market and the number of health centres we have managed to cover so far.
We are optimistic the initiative will go a long way in improving health across the country and offer timely assistance, said Nicodemus Maingi, a senior lecturer at the university.
But a key challenge facing the system is network connectivity, making the task tiresome. Mr Maingi, however, confirmed that the parties are in talks with mobile service providers to get a connection to some of the remote areas where they are offering the services.
Dispensaries are finding it easy to ascertain if Kenya Medical Supplies Authority is efficient or its undersupplying them, added Mr Maingi.
At Strathmore, the experts have already started mentoring other potential geeks who will take over in case they make an exit.
We have mentees for continuity because all the people who are working on this project are former students or continuing students and we felt it wise to pass the mantle to avoid leaving a loophole in leadership, said Mr Kariuki.
The implementation of the project relies a lot on field coordinators who install the system while updating any emerging changes.
Clinton Health Access Initiative is the brainchild of former US president Bill Clinton under the Clinton Foundation. It seeks to find solutions to problems affecting healthcare in Africa while the Clinton Foundation started off as an initiative tackling HIV/Aids and other ailments such as malaria.
The organisers are currently setting up a mobile short code that will help health officers who cannot use the Internet to relay information through short messages.
Others from Strathmore University who started the initiative include Joseph Mokaya and Kelvin Muriithi.
I am interested in technology and very passionate about it and I intend to set up my own venture concentrating on the same, said Mr Kariuki as we parted.