mHealth for Logistics: Solving Data Challenges Through Mobile Technology

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Achieving visibility into logistics data at lower levels of the health system is always a challenge for logisticians. Developed by IAPHL and JSI, the presentation “mHealth for Logistics: Solving Data …

Achieving visibility into logistics data at lower levels of the health system is always a challenge for logisticians. Developed by IAPHL and JSI, the presentation “mHealth for Logistics: Solving Data Challenges through Mobile Technology” is an introduction to the ways in which mobile technology can improve your logistics programs. The purpose of this presentation is to give an overview of several of the mobile solutions available to program implementers.

We begin by presenting the least resource-intensive intervention and work our way up to the most robust mobile information systems. Categories of tools that are covered include: mobile forms for data collection; basic SMS databases for routine reporting; paying for a customizable generic platform; and working with a developer to build a new system to your specifications from scratch. The presentation also explains practical aspects of implementing mobile solutions, such as costs and human resources required, to help viewers gauge which options best meet their needs.

This presentation was given as a webinar on May 26, 2013. To view a recording of the webinar, go to

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  • SC4CCM has used Magpi/Episurveyor for 6 large evaluations as well as program monitoring activities in all 3 program countries: Malawi, Rwanda and Ethiopia
  • Can be considered a low cost/low effort method, but keep in mind large surveys still require a lot of resources (eg. advance planning, time, staff, materials)
  • DataDyne ’s Magpi (formerly EpiSurveyor): “the fastest, easiest, least expensive way to collect data on mobile devices.”
  • SC4CCM Malawi Midline 2013
  • Logistics staff at central, regional, district, service delivery point are trained to enter data Supervisors, district warehouse managers, higher level decision makers are trained to view reports and dashboards
  • Robust system, ready for immediate implementation Pre-tested, benefit from prior feature development, trouble shooting System upgrades, bug fixes, etc. are automatically included No need for high level of technology capacity within implementing organization
  • These are some of the challenges which led to the birth of the need for a mobile reporting system.
  • Begin by defining what a gateway is. A gateway is a is either hardware (phone) or software (in this case the ILSGateway system) that acts as a bridge between two networks so that data can be transferred between a number of computers. For example, when you send an e-mail to a friend or when you log in to a Web site, there is a gateway that allows the connection take place. Often, your connection to a Web site will involve many smaller connections to other servers along the way. In these cases, a number of gateways are used. In our case, using mobile phones and a website we will create a logistics information gateway. The mobile reporting system, to be known as the ILSGateway will in a combined effort seek support and strengthen the paper based integrated logistics system (ILS) while improving the availability and visibility of family planning commodities. Pilot is in 109 facilities and has been going on for 1 year
  • 97% of facilities improved their on-time submission rates for stock reports, which are critical for resupply decision making. A further 93% improved their stock counting exercises because of the routine mobile alerts they received. Importantly, 45% of facilities reported improved product availability, indicating the overall positive effect the ILSGateway has had on the essential medicine supply system in Tanzania.


  • 1. WelcomemHealth for Logistics: Solving DataChallenges through Mobile Technology
  • 2. To Ask a Question• Via Twitter: #mHealth4Log and@HealthSCM• Via the Webinar Chat window• If you have technical problems, contactBen Bruno at
  • 3. Resource Intensiveness ofMobile Solutions
  • 4. Resource Intensiveness-Mobile Data Collection
  • 5. Mobile Forms forData CollectionMegan NoelSC4CCM Project
  • 6. What logistics data can thetool provide to programimplementers and decisionmakers?
  • 7. Who is trained to use thetechnology?• Intuitive design interface• Data collectors need basic training –SC4CCM held 7-8 day training on Magpiand SC, including 2-day pre-test• Simple to enter, edit, save, and send datausing forms
  • 8. What kinds of hardware areneeded/can be used?• Design: Computer with internet (high speedpreferred), and mobile device to verify functionswork correctly• Data collection: any of 47 models of mobiledevice (brands include Nokia, Samsung,SonyEricsson, Apple, Android)• Nokia e71, used by SC4CCM, costs around$120
  • 9. What software is used andapproximately what does itcost?• The application is called Magpi, availablefor free download• Additional costs for greater storage space,special features• Data can be loaded and sent to the onlinedatabase by cellular, wifi, or cableconnection to the mobile device
  • 10. Data SecurityPhone• Password protected on all devices• Encryption• All Blackberry, iPhone/iPad• Some Android (not all devices)Transmission/Uploading• Encrypted to 256 bit strong standardOnline•Password protected, encrypted, backed up 4x daily(including to remote site), monitored 24/7/365
  • 11. Data Outputs
  • 12. Basic AnalysisLabel Name Code Value %A Yes 1 44 59.5B No 0 9 12.2Total 53 71.7Is the stock card available forcotrimoxazole 120mg tabs?Measure ValueMean 89742.2Maximum 816400.0Minimum 0.0What is the physical count (usablestock only) of cotrimoxazole 480mgtabs today?
  • 13. Advantages• Easy to design data collection tools• Eliminates need for data entry before viewingdata, allows trouble shooting if needed whileteams are still in the field• Flexible to accept many kinds of data – opentext, bivariate, multiple response, coded-numeric or text• Multiple ways to transmit data to site• Relatively low cost
  • 14. Limitations• Limited ability to perform calculationswithin the program – do this after data arecollected, ex.OFR, stock status• Smart phones can be prohibitivelyexpensive for community and lowresource settings• Heavy front end work (design and training)required for larger data collection activities
  • 15. Programs:• Available programs using ODK (OpenData Kit) platforms:– iFormBuilder, FormHub, ODK Collect, KoBoToolbox• Proprietary software:– Magpi, CommCare*All require some programming skills exceptMagpi
  • 16. Thank you!
  • 17. Resource Intensiveness-Sending SMS to a Database
  • 18. Using Basic SMS Systemsfor Logistics DataMike FrostUSAID | DELIVER PROJECT
  • 19. In a typical paper-basedLMIS, detail is often lostbetween levelsFacilityDistrictRegion
  • 20. Transmitting essentiallogistics data via SMScan help
  • 21. 17670 # 23 # 0 # 71 # 2 # 0 # 41 # 30 # 2 # 0Send the above message at the end of every Friday:•Start the message with 17670•Separate every entry with #•Do not use spaces•Enter information for every product, in the order indicatedCode CONDOMSIssuedCONDOMSReceivedCONDOMSPhysicalcountMICROGYNONIssuedMICROGYNONReceivedMICROGYNONPhysicalcountDEPOIssuedDEPOReceivedDEPOPhysicalCountSend every Friday (Family Planning)7797805460
  • 22. The options are growing…
  • 23. Activities• Assessment activity• Design (products, data elements, forms,dashboard, etc.)• Training• Testing
  • 24. Costs• Any assistance with assessment• Any assistance with design• Magpi pro user license (5,000 USDannual. SMS? Gateway?)• Training
  • 25. Use Cases• Limited set of facilities• Limited set of products• Concept testing• Sentinel Sites
  • 26. Thanks
  • 27. Resource Intensiveness-Existing Mobile Logistics Platforms
  • 28. Using aCustomizable PlatformLeona RosenblumJohn Snow, Inc.
  • 29. What logistics data can thetool provide to programimplementers and decisionmakers?• Routine logistics data• Snapshot survey data• Supervision data
  • 30. Who is trained to use thetechnology?• Data entry- All levels• Dashboards and reporting- Supervisors,decision makers
  • 31. What kinds of hardware areneeded/can be used?• Basic feature phones- send data by SMS• Smart phones- design forms for morecomplex data capture• Computer with internet connection-manage system
  • 32. What software is used andapproximately what does itcost?• Several software platforms exist, withmultiple pricing models.• All include an online platform for buildingforms and managing data.• Pricing plans are per user, per facility,and can include training.
  • 33. Why choose a customizableplatform?• Robust system• Pre-tested• Upgrades• Customer Service
  • 34. Why not?• Not open source• Funding• Limits to customizability• Sustainability
  • 35. What are some options?• Mango-Greenmash• LogiMobile and LogiWeb-Logistimo• CommTrack-Dimagi• Others?
  • 36. Thank You
  • 37. Resource Intensiveness-Develop a System
  • 38. ILSGateway: Developing aMobile System to Improvethe Availabilityof Essential MedicinesMarasi MwenchaUSAID | DELIVER PROJECTTANZANIA
  • 39. Integrated Logistics System (ILS)Supply Chain Challenges• Stock outs of essential medicines• Infrequent adherence to reporting groups• Difficulties with ordering and reporting• Absence of facility level data for decision-makers• Insufficient logistics supervision at health facilities• Need to empower new and untrained staff
  • 40. ILSGateway: The Solution• The ILSGateway is a mobile health alertand reporting system designed tosupport and strengthen the ILS by:– Expanding the accessibility toand visibility of logistics data– Improving the use of logisticsdata for supply chaindecision-making
  • 41. What logistics data does theILSGateway provide programimplementers and decisionmakers?• Stock on hand• Losses & adjustments• Calculated consumption• Supervision frequency• Lead times• Reporting rates• Stock outs• GIS reports
  • 42. What kind of hardware arerequired to be used?• Personal cell phone• Personal computer with web connectivity
  • 43. Who is trained to use thetechnology?• MOHSW program managers• District Pharmacists and Medical Officers• Health care workers from health facilities• Medical Stores Department• NGOs
  • 44. What software is used andapproximately what does itcost?• RapidSMS – an open source platform• SMS aggregation services• Initial cost of ~$50,000• With subsequent enhancements the totalspent to date has been ~$200,000
  • 45. Pros of building on RapidSMS• Robust platform• Open source• Multiple developers available for support• Readily customizable for the country needs
  • 46. Challenges encountered• Time frame it took to build system• Cost for customizations• System limitations
  • 47. Impact of mHealth on Supply Chain• increase in reporting rates &adherence to reporting groups• improvement in attention toinventory management• increase in productavailability at health facilities• Increased accountability,transparency and responsibility• Growing use of data for supplychain managementImproved supplychain performance
  • 48. Thank You
  • 49.