IBM advises Ghana on ICT in healthcare
By BiztechAfrica – May 14, 2012, 12:49 p.m.
A team of IBM’s experts has presented the Ghana Ministry of Health with a forward-looking blueprint to provide all Ghanaians with access to health care, while also improving the availability of medicines and reducing their cost. The blueprint included recommendations for mechanisms to provide more timely and detailed information to decision makers.
The IBM team, comprising 12 individuals drawn from nine countries, was in Ghana as part of IBM’s pro-bono Corporate Service Corps program, in which IBM deploys teams of top employees to municipalities and countries to work on projects that intersect business, technology and society. The engagement in Ghana was coordinated with USAID, the government agency that provides U.S. economic and humanitarian assistance worldwide. IBM is also working with USAID to help other companies develop international volunteerism programs.
The Ghanaian health sector has faced various challenges, including weak logistical data, poor visibility and insight into medical data, limited medical product availability and quality, uneven planning and coordination, and occasional misalignment of health objectives and incentives. This is largely a result of a strongly decentralizing sector, leading to fragmented coordination.
An initial review of the health sector in June 2011 prompted the Ministry of Health to develop a five-year master plan aimed at addressing existing supply chain limitations. The plan recommended that the Ministry of Health establish a centralised “Supply Chain Management Unit,” an administrative body that could potentially link the public and private health sectors to establish efficiencies within the national health supply chain — the system of planners, suppliers, deliverers, and providers that ensure the cost effective and timely availability of medicines.
The IBM team of experts arrived in Ghana in mid-April and was tasked with assessing and addressing the factors involved in improving the system that manages this supply chain. The team was also asked to explore the costs and information technology requirements for establishing an automated logistics system, which will ensure the right medicines will be ordered, shipped, delivered, received and available at the right time. Such a system would also enable stakeholders, such as health care administrators, to view the underlying logistics processes so planning and adjustments can be simplified.
Key IBM recommendations were threefold. They included the recommendation of a system for informed decision making based on identifying and managing risks at critical control points. This will enable the Ministry of Health to base decisions on known and qualified risks and minimize surprises and “management by crisis.” The team also recommended that a highly accessible and visible cost model be established to enable managers to identify costly medical products and services. This will provide a clear understanding of the total cost of the supply chain in order to build in efficiencies within the system.
Finally, IBM developed a high level blueprint for building an information system supporting the delivery of medicines within the healthcare system.
“With this health sector Supply Chain Management Unit, Ghana hopes to serve as a model for many countries in Africa and other emerging markets faced with similar challenges,” said Mr. Samuel Boateng, the Director of Procurement for the Ministry of Health.
“The Supply Chain Management Unit framework suggested by the IBM experts will go far in securing increased access to essential medicines and health care by Ghanaians,” said Joe Mensah, IBM Country General Manager for Ghana. “An enhanced supply chain management system will lead to overall affordable and quality healthcare provided by the Government of Ghana to its citizens.”
IBM’s Corporate Service Corps is a global IBM initiative designed to provide small businesses, educational institutions and non-profit organizations in growth markets with sophisticated business consulting and skills development to help improve local conditions and foster job creation. IBM deploys teams of top employees from around the world representing information technology, research, marketing, finance, consulting, human resources, legal and business development to growth markets for a period of one month.
Since the launch of Corporate Service Corps in 2008, nearly 1,500 IBM employees based in 50 countries have been dispatched on more than 150 team assignments in 30 countries. Africa is a focus continent for IBM’s volunteerism programs. Since 2008, IBM’s Corporate Service Corps has deployed more than 500 IBM employees on approximately 44 teams to South Africa,Tanzania, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, and Egypt.