In recent years, many developing countries have implemented commercial Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems to manage their procurement of medical supplies at a national level. However, commercially available software is rarely a viable option for managing the lower levels of a medical supply chain, from a central warehouse out to individual health centres. In such settings, commercial software is hampered by limited data communications bandwidth, prohibitive software licensing costs, and the general lack of functionality necessary to support global health supply chains.
In late 2011, VillageReach began the OpenLMIS project to foster the development of open source, enterprise-grade supply chain software. After researching the requirements of nearly a dozen countries in Africa and Asia, VillageReach engaged with ThoughtWorks to plan the system development.
Around the same time, the Tanzania Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, and subsequently the Zambia Ministry of Health - with the support of John Snow, Inc. (JSI) through the USAID | DELIVER Project - developed their own requirements for new electronic LMISs for their respective countries.
"VillageReach and ThoughtWorks took on a goal that no one had ever attempted: to create a logistics management information system that is highly configurable, highly scalable, and satisfies the unique requirements for running the entire medical supply chain in developing countries."
By mid 2012, these organisations all came together with ThoughtWorks to begin the development of OpenLMIS. The project goals were daunting. The system had to be:
- customisable for each country’s unique requirements – e.g., including geographic hierarchy, supply chain hierarchy, programs, products, operating schedules, workflow
- suitable for managing a single hospital, yet scalable to support tens of thousands of users who are managing an entire country
- fully web-enabled, and compatible with mainstream browsers and mobile devices
- interoperable with other enterprise systems
- affordable, both upfront and over the long term
- able to support multiple languages
- easily usable by staff who may have limited first-hand experience with computer systems
The team embraced these challenges, and OpenLMIS was successfully deployed in both Tanzania and Zambia in November 2013, supporting multiple programs in each country. In 2014, OpenLMIS was also deployed in Mozambique, initially to support their vaccine program.
“Together we engaged in a project that required 22 months of intensive collaboration, and it was great working with such a talented team. Our project has had immediate impact – initial deployments in Mozambique, Tanzania, and Zambia have been altogether successful, user feedback has been very positive, and the Ministries of Health are expanding their use of OpenLMIS to improve healthcare outcomes for more people.”
OpenLMIS currently supports 500 health centres in Mozambique, collectively serving approximately 10 million people. Tanzania and Zambia are continuing to broaden their deployments – Zambia expects to have hundreds of health centres supported by the end of 2015, and Tanzania expects to have approximately 4,000 health centres supported by the end of 2015. The OpenLMIS project has resulted in sustainable innovations that are already improving the lives of tens of millions of people on a multi-national scale.