You are more than likely familiar with The Guinness World Records, an annually released reference book highlighting and awarding superhuman records that are set and broken. On January 20, 2017, another Guinness World Record was added to the list of phenomenal human achievements: The record for the most medication donated in a 24-hour period.
The world record was presented to a group of partners, organizations and charities called United to Combat Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs), whose members range from teachers at local public schools to those running ministries of health. The total number of drugs donated in that 24-hour period was a staggering 207,169,292.
Achieving that scale isn’t easy, especially when you consider where the drugs are being delivered—to the most remote locations in the world. To make this nearly impossible process possible, we worked alongside The Neglected Tropical Diseases Supply Chain Forum (NTDSCF), a group of pharmaceutical donors, logistics service providers, and implementing partners committed to eliminating and controlling NTDs. We are the forum's official technology partner. Pharmaceutical companies donated the supplies needed as part of their ongoing efforts to distribute their medicines and vaccines to populations worldwide, but before they could get the supplies to their destination new procedures and applications were needed.
In the Western World, we often take for granted how easy it is to track things—for us, it’s easier than ever before to quickly place an order and log online to check its whereabouts from the initial purchase to its final delivery to your door.
This level of tracking is nonexistent in some parts of the world, particularly when it comes to donated supplies like goods and medicine. In fact, there’s very little accountability when supplies are sent abroad; donors are unaware of whether the goods arrived on time (or at all), where they went, and other important information like if there was a certain amount of inventory in the country already—and when you’re donating billions of tablets of medicine every year, knowing where everything is, is critical.
When the NTDSCF reached out to partner with us, one of the pharmaceutical donors had recently realized hundreds of thousands of their donated medicines were expired without being used and they wanted to avoid the loss of supplies in the future. We knew there had to be a better way to help them track their medicine; from the moment a county requested the medicine to where and when the medicine was distributed. We worked closely with them to create a customized solution built on top of Secure Data Kit called NTDeliver, allowing them to track billions of drugs across the globe, using the following process.
The process for requesting drugs is something that can take up to a year and involves multiple processes and some seriously complex excel spreadsheets. Approved applications are sent to the donors, and other non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and ultimately make their way into our cloud-based system where we watch more than 20 key performance indicators to make sure goods are where they should be when they should be there.
Once the donor manufactures the medicine we still need to know where the medicine has been manufactured, in which batches, how large those batches are, and when those batches expire. Where many apps would use a complex systems integration to pull in the needed information, we kept it simple for users by having them email us a copy of their packing list and once we received the packing list, we used machine learning to read the packing list and input the data into our system.
When you’re sending the amount of donated goods most manufactures are dealing with you’ll need shipping documents, customs documents, bills of landing, and invoices among other important documentation. Our system has automated routines to easily digest these documents, attach them to a Purchase Order, and then integrate with the shipper to track every step of the journey. Plus, we make all this visible and shareable via our cloud-based tool.
Now donors have end-to-end visibility and an unprecedented level of visibility of their shipments, from initial donation to the final treatments, all in one place, and more importantly—in near real time. The preliminary results show an uptake in not only efficiency, but data collection that will continue to improve the supply chain process:
With NTDeliver, manufacturers have insight into the entire supply chain, allowing them to predict when goods are going to be late, when they need to consolidate deliveries, and when demand will exceed capacity. This unprecedented level of transparency is giving NGOs and healthcare providers the data, accessibility, and convenience they need to relieve suffering.