The availability of health commodities is vital for the achievement of universal health coverage and the Sustainable Development Goals. At the Swiss TPH Winter Symposium that took place virtually on 1 December, participants came together to share experiences of supply chain management in challenging environments, showcase innovations for expanding the availability of health products and vaccines, and exchange on agile approaches for sustainable improvement of supply chains.
"Health systems and supply chains are of the utmost importance to ensure that populations have access to essential services and in turn have positive health outcomes," said Kaspar Wyss, Deputy Director of Swiss TPH. "It was excellent that we could still come together virtually to discuss our diverse experiences from the perspective of the manufacturer, all the way to the patient."
Access challenges at the interplay between supply and demand
Participants reflected on the silver lining of the ongoing pandemic: "The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the global health supply chain to the top of everyone's agenda as they play a critical role in ensuring access to health commodities," said Alexis Strader from People that Deliver.
Alex Schulze from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) also commented: "Under normal circumstances, universal health coverage is hard to achieve. In a pandemic, it is particularly under strain. So we must ask: what are the primary products and services that should be prioritized? And how do we get these to the populations who need them most?"
e-Health for improved health outcomes
The use of drones in global health settings has rapidly evolved in the past years. As drone technology continues to expand beyond the military and recreational sectors, it is foreseen that it will have a significant role to play in healthcare delivery. Tautvydas Juskauskas from UNICEF highlighted his experience with drones in healthcare: "Drones can provide cost effective solution to improve the delivery of food and medicine commodities in rural areas." He said. "The use of drones has been shown to have a nearly 130% increase in diagnostic samples collection, which leads to more patients being effectively treated."
Other e-health programs were mentioned such as SMS for Life in Tanzania. Carmen Sant Fruchtman from Swiss TPH commented on some of the key lessons learnt: "We were able to show that a large scale digital intervention was feasible and acceptable in Tanzania, but that it was important to involve the right stakeholders early on in the programme design."
Discussions also took place on how to best get health products to the patients: "We need to start thinking from the perspective of the patient and healthcare workers to make it work - they must be at the centre of our decision making." said Christian Burri from Swiss TPH.
Health commodities management at Swiss TPH
Swiss TPH integrates the management of health commodities into health system's strengthening by drawing on vast experience in human resource management, quality assurance and fostering accountability. Swiss TPH is involved in supply chain activities, including the control of the COVID-19 pandemic, such as programme strengthening and management tools analysis, and our expertise lies in supply chain design, health worker training, stock and distribution and in the Logistic Management Information System (LMIS).