Real-time Data Strengthening Uganda’s Response to COVID-19
Identifying opportunities to improve global health requires innovation and creative thinking. In developing countries such as Uganda, the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting an already-strained health system. Access to primary health care remains difficult for many people, and quality of care is inconsistent, with limited drugs, supplies, and human resources. The referral system is weak and patients often delay seeking necessary secondary or tertiary care due to the high costs involved. Additionally, evidence-based management of logistics is inconsistent, and facility-based quality improvement initiatives, while they exist, have not been uniformly institutionalized.
The USAID-funded Uganda Health Supply Chain (UHSC) project, led by MSH, currently supports the COVID-19 response by providing real-time data on the availability of medicines and medical supplies at both national and district levels. Prior to the pandemic, UHSC created and deployed a coordination and information management system called the electronic Emergency Logistics Management Information System (eELMIS). Real-time data systems employ digital technologies and specialized software applications to enable rapid collection, sharing, management, analysis, and reporting of data to inform coordination and timely decision making.
The eELMIS enables the Ministry of Health to receive and respond in real time to requests for medical supplies during any public health emergency, including COVID-19. Through the tool, districts, facilities, and donor organizations can share information on supplies and assess gaps, while partners at national, district, and facility levels can enter their medical stock requests into the system. These orders are viewed by Ministry of Health staff who verify, approve, or reject them through the Emergency Operations Center. Whatever action taken, both the district and the facility will receive SMS alerts on the status of the order.
With the emergence of COVID-19, demand for supplies increased at facilities, including regional referrals and general hospitals. The eELMIS tool is flexible enough to accommodate the changes: In its design, the tool has a centralized command structure for dealing with emergencies such as COVID-19 and the need for pre-positioning emergency supplies closer to the districts. From eight hubs located in Arua, Entebbe, Masindi, Mbale, Mbarara, Kasese, Kotido, and Lira, trained staff were equipped to serve a cluster of districts in the respective regions, which helped avoid crowding and delays at the central warehouse.
This unique leveraging of existing resources is helping keep Ugandans healthy, and demonstrating the tremendous value of having systems that capture health information electronically and using the collected data to make fast course actions to provide medical supplies.
“During emergency response operations, accountability is key – people want to see value and impact from their contribution. With the eELMIS, incident managers and the country’s decision makers, with a click of a button, can see exactly which orders came through and where the commodities are being delivered to,” says Noah Kafumbe, Senior Supply Chain System Advisor for USAID.
The USAID-funded system is strengthening Uganda’s real-time data capacity for the effective management and utilization of essential medicines and health supplies, key to fighting pandemics like COVID-19.