Achieving Data Visibility for Health Supply Chain Information Systems

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Health Supply Chains | Data Visibility
As global health supply chains expand and become more complex, the information systems that are used to manage them need to mature along with them. USAID’s Supply Chain Information System Maturity Model helps countries evaluate their supply chain systems’ capabilities holistically, enabling informed decision-making and timely delivery of health commodities.

Today’s supply chains are growing in complexity, driven by factors such as globalization and changing market trends. Global health supply chains offer unique challenges and opportunities due to the changing patterns of commodity flows and new demands for responsive and agile supply chains that don’t compromise on the quality of medicines. As a result, the ability to procure and distribute life-saving medicines to patients in an efficient, effective, and timely manner is becoming increasingly difficult. This growing complexity is also limiting the ability to respond to supply chain exceptions such as stockouts and expiries.

Enter information systems. They form the backbone of a supply chain system with a well-coordinated flow of commodities and information, which are key to ensuring consistent coordination across the entire supply chain by providing end-to-end visibility, agility, and, more importantly, patient safety. With effective systems, commodities can move at a faster pace and managers are able to maintain visibility within the supply chain and verify the authenticity of commodities.

However, not all information systems are created equal. Traditional approaches to improving supply chain information systems tend to either focus on a limited number of supply chain processes such as logistics or transportation, on certain levels like central medical stores or service delivery points, or on specific programs such as health commodity groupings (i.e. vaccines) for a particular disease area like HIV/AIDS or malaria. A holistic approach, on the other hand, is overarching across all critical processes, levels, and commodity types.

A Holistic Approach

While supporting global health supply chains in over 60 countries around the world, the USAID Global Health Supply Chain Program-Procurement and Supply Management (GHSC-PSM) project has developed USAID’s Supply Chain Information System Maturity Model (SCISMM) to help countries analyze their current supply chain systems holistically and plan their investments in supply chain information systems accordingly.

The SCISMM is a guiding tool to aid supply chain actors, including governments, donors, and implementing partners/procurement agents, in planning and strategizing around future SCIS investments to enhance the functionality of supply chain operations. The model can be used to evaluate current capabilities or to target priority areas for improvement or development, as in the case of its application in Nepal, Pakistan, and Rwanda.

While the SCISMM has been developed in the context of public health supply chains, it was designed with core supply chain principles in mind, including the Supply Chain Operations Reference (SCOR) model and the American Productivity & Quality Center ((APQC) Framework, and can be applied to any type of commodity. With the maturity model, supply chain information system capabilities such as planning, order management, and warehouse management, as well as foundational capabilities like master data management and interoperability, have been categorized across four maturity levels. Each level defines the extent and maturity of system capabilities. The model provides pre-requisites for each maturity level and an ability to develop baselines and measure improvements as systems mature.

The Maturity Model in Practice

Based on a country’s goals, priorities, and constraints, the SCISMM can be customized to evaluate the supply chain capabilities deployed through information systems and to develop a progressive roadmap for implementing additional functionality. The roadmap can then feed into annual national plans to ensure planned initiatives receive the resources needed. For example, in Pakistan, we used the SCISMM to identify how deeply certain capabilities had been deployed in order to determine which system features needed further implementation support and where new capabilities needed to be developed instead. Similarly, in Nepal, the maturity model was used to evaluate gaps between ongoing and planned supply chain systems and processes. The model was then applied to the development of a tailored plan for prioritizing future information system capabilities.

Efficient and effective processes and systems could mean the difference between health service delivery points receiving the commodities they need or coming up short.   

In Rwanda, through GHSC-PSM, we worked with the Ministry of Health to leverage the SCISMM to assess the current state of the country’s national supply chain information system. This process highlighted gaps in attaining end-to-end visibility, including the harmonization of Product Master Data Management for health commodities with Global Standards (GS1)-based attributes. Based on this 2019 assessment, the Rwandan government chose to prioritize foundational system capabilities such as master data management and analytics and approved implementation of a national product catalog (NPC) for health product master data management. The NPC helps to uniformly identify health products in both public and private supply chains, enabling product tracing from the point of manufacturer until health service delivery points and combating the risk posed by counterfeit products.

“The Supply Chain Information System Maturity Model was very useful in shaping results of the assessment of public health supply chain information systems in Rwanda,” said GHSC-PSM Electronic Logistics Management Information System Technical Lead Vincent Sabagirirwa, “which enabled the Ministry of Health to appropriately prioritize activities.” Throughout 2020, we have been enthusiastic about continuing progress towards implementing NPC across the supply chain, increasing visibility and regulatory capacity of the Rwanda Ministry of Health to implement traceability and verification of pharmaceutical commodities.

GHSC-PSM continues to revise USAID’s SCISMM based on these and other countries’ perspectives and use cases. For governments, funders, and implementing partners, the SCISMM can help steer investment into the most needed areas – which is even more critical for the often resource-constrained public health sector where efficient and effective processes and systems could mean the difference between health service delivery points receiving the commodities they need or coming up short.

For additional details about the Supply Chain Information System Maturity Model, please contact sjayaprakash@ghsc-psm.org  and jmiller@ghsc-psm.org.

Posts on the blog represent the views of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of Chemonics. 

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About Swaroop Jayaprakash

Swaroop is the Supply Chain Management Information System Architect on the USAID Global Health Supply Chain Program-Procurement and Supply Management (GHSC-PSM) project. He works for IBM, one of Chemonics’ consortium partners on GHSC-PSM.

About Jean Miller

Jean Miller is a senior project manager and systems integration lead with more than 20 years of technical experience implementing Information Technology (IT) solutions of varying size and complexity across the full software development life cycle. Ms. Miller specializes in process improvement services, including leveraging ISO 9001 quality management systems and the Capability Maturity Model…