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Earlier this year, Adam Curry, BD Global Mobile Health (mHealth), traveled to Tanzania and Kenya for one week to meet healthcare workers and representatives from Palladium, a positive impact firm with over fifty years’ experience in international development.
The primary goals for the trip were to evaluate unmet needs in healthcare supply chains, and to identify sites for a joint pilot study evaluating the transport of medical supplies and patient samples by unmanned aerial vehicles.
The trip included visits to five healthcare sites across Tanzania and Kenya. At each site, Adam met with healthcare workers to learn more about vaccine supply, transport and administration, on-site and off-site laboratory testing, drug and supply delivery, results reporting and record keeping. Of the many healthcare challenges faced by the healthcare facilities, two prevalent unmet needs were identified: more effective transport of vaccines and supplies, and more robust vaccine storage.
In Kenya, smaller facilities must provide their own transportation to larger sub-district hospitals to collect supplies. Some sites lack a vehicle, and some sites are very remote, which can cause extensive delays.
A hospital in Tanzania reported a similar challenge. The Lushoto District Hospital has only one vehicle to send supplies to its 36 smaller facilities, and supplying some of these facilities requires a hired motorcycle courier. In such cases, unmanned aerial vehicles may provide advantages for transporting much-needed medical supplies.
Vaccine storage issues were clearly observed at a dispensary in Tanzania. Here, healthcare workers currently store vaccines for the remote facilities nearby that lack the resources to power refrigerators. To complicate matters, the dispensary only recently regained its electrical power.
The visits revealed remote facilities, insufficient vehicle availability, and unreliable storage capabilities are among the problems highlighting the potential of unmanned aerial vehicles in the healthcare system supply chain in these countries, and BD Technologies is working on solutions.