“It is a truth universally acknowledged that anyone in possession of a good medical product donation programme must be in want of a good system.”

 

While not quite as catchy as Jane Austen’s original, the hypothesis above speaks to the system requirements at the core of effective medical product donations. International Health Partners (IHP) is based on a simple idea: matching medicine and health supplies to need. But for those of us involved in improving access to medicines, the realities of matching can be complex.

As we build shipments of health supplies to meet needs, how do we ensure the right treatments get to people in time? This challenge led IHP in 2014 to launch EURMED, its first online system managing the donation journey. Five years on, to increase functionality and move to the next level, we’ve partnered with social innovation agency Super Being Labs (SBL) to develop a bespoke platform.

“Our donations are directed by in-country need in order to avoid wastage and misuse, so we ask potential recipients to tell us exactly what they need, then feed this back to help guide provision,” explains IHP’s logistics director Colleen Harrisson-Dodds. “However, systems are mostly built to sell rather than offer things. IHP plays the role of auctioneer, the matcher, so we needed a dedicated offers system to match donated products appropriately. We couldn’t find anything that worked, and we also needed the right partner.”

 

IHP Chief Operations Officer, Tina Grear demonstrates the new donations platform to staff at NGO partner, Food for the Poor

 

Colleen met Darshan Sanghrajka, founder of SBL, at a conference. He saw the proposed system as “obviously a needed resource” and took on the job. “Rather than say ‘Let’s fix your system’, we said ‘If you could make sure everyone who needed medicine got it, what would a system that enabled this look like?’ We spent time talking to people in donor companies and in NGOs. We wanted to understand exactly what wasn’t working with the old system; it took a long time to input data, and it was hard to measure impact.”

Actionable information is critical, he notes. “In a real marketplace, demand and supply move together quickly to reach equilibrium, but for IHP, the situation is asynchronous. A company might say ‘We’ve got X amount of supply’ and the NGO might need it six months later. We had to map the thinking processes to needs. Digital technology should augment what works offline. We solved this by making every piece of data actionable, so products only go on when needed.”

Still unnamed and in its early stages, the system is being trialled by IHP donor companies and NGO partners, and others are recognising the power of the system. As well as streamlining processes, it offers IHP and users increased ability to measure and evaluate data. For IHP’s corporate partner team, “there are already clear advantages, and the new system is definitely saving time.”

For more information about the system or for a demonstration, please contact Lydia Amartey, Corporate Partners Manager [email protected]