Medical suppliers bank on technology to enhance efficiency in distribution

In Summary

• Barcoding has become a global best practice in supply and logistics.

MEDS managing director Dr Jane Masiga awards chief guest Peter Ochieng during the 2019 suppliers' conference in Nairobi.
MEDS managing director Dr Jane Masiga awards chief guest Peter Ochieng during the 2019 suppliers' conference in Nairobi.
Image: COURTESY

Companies in the medical supplies business are banking on technology to enhance supply chain efficiency as controls on quality of drugs and medical devices tighten.

According to the Mission for Essential Drugs & Supplies (MEDS) Managing Director, Dr Jane Masiga, use of technology is turning out to be a game-changer on the supply side of the healthcare industry.

She said MEDS, which stocks more than 3,000 drugs and other medical supplies, had positioned itself to meet this challenge through deployment of the bar-cording technology to manage inventory and employing infrared spectrometry at its WHO-certified laboratory for quality testing.

Speaking at the annual MEDS Suppliers Conference, Dr Masiga said the barcode technology is being applied across the supply chain from packaging, storage, handling to transportation to ensure healthcare products get to the patients in the best quality. “We are now able to test disinfectants and even cotton wool and some of them are failing the test,” she said.

The theme of the conference was, “Leveraging on technology to improve service delivery and patient safety in supply chain for health products and technologies.”

Barcoding has become a global best practice in supply and logistics as it enhances efficiency by enabling precise tracking of products and inventory.

She said barcoding has significantly reduced stockouts at MEDS warehouses in Nairobi since supplies can be monitored in real-time. Last year MEDS suffered stockouts estimated at Ksh70 million.

She said besides reducing errors in supply, barcodes had cut turnaround time for orders from a week to just one day. “We can now effectively manage orders from the 150 health facilities we supply daily without any errors,” said Dr Masiga.

Dr Masiga said technology had helped to ensure only quality drugs are supplied to health facilities, noting that its system had identified over 100 products that did not meet the quality standards over the past one year.

Mr Peter Otieno, Chief Executive Officer, GSI Kenya, urged suppliers to embrace track and trace technology to enhance efficiency in service delivery and patient safety. Barcoding as is a global standard provides each product with a unique number that helps in tracking and tracing from the manufacturer down to the hospital. He said barcoding would also help local manufacturers of drugs to access the global market.

“Barcoding ensures automation and data capture along the healthcare supply chain and thus streamlines inventory management,” said Mr Otieno. “It also enhances patience safety and supply chain management.”

During the conference, more than ten suppliers were recognized by MEDS for various milestones.