As low- and middle-income countries transition from paper to digital systems, family planning programs can benefit from unprecedented opportunities to improve services. Investments in digital health tools have expanded exponentially, but information on what works—and what does not— remains limited and scattered. As investments have increased, digital applications and data fragmentation have proliferated, but stakeholders are moving towards more coordinated efforts to scale digital health solutions, support countries’ digital health infrastructure, and share evidence-based learnings.
This Digital Health Compendium enables users to explore case studies across a range of digital health technologies used to enhance family planning programs mainly in sub-Saharan Africa, but also in other regions of the world. Digital health applications in family planning programs can be broadly classified as those affecting demand generation, service delivery, supply chain management, and the policy and enabling environment. In many low- and middle-income countries, digital health innovations were adopted earlier in other health sectors, including HIV/AIDS, maternal and child health, and noncommunicable disease prevention and response. As a result, much of the impact evidence is likewise restricted to those sectors. To advance greater adoption of digital technology in family planning programs, more data and information on the challenges, opportunities, scalability, and results are needed. This compendium aims to consolidate emerging information and data on applications of digital technology in family planning programs to inform adoption and scale-up of successful approaches.
All of the case studies were submitted by the implementing organizations and include a description of the digital health intervention, program context, and, if available, important findings and lessons learned through rigorous evaluations or program data. The compendium facilitates a quick search for case studies based on the target user for digital health intervention, building block for the digital health enabling environment, family planning program classification, and country location. The case studies give policy and program decisionmakers insights on real-world applications of digital health, promising practices, challenges, and other lessons that can be applied to current and future programs.
Head, External Relations
The information below appeared in the original case study.
National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control in Nigeria (NAFDAC)
Kenyan Pharmacy and Poisons Board (PPB)
West African Health Organization (WAHO)
Several Telecom Companies
The US Technical Support Working Group
Client, Health Care Provider, Health System Manager, Data Services Provider
Leadership and Governance, Strategy and Investment, Legislation, Policy, and Compliance, Services and Applications, Standards and Interoperability, Infrastructure, Workforce
Supply Chain Management
This case study was originally published in the mHealth Compendium Volume 2, developed by the African Strategies for Health project, implemented by Management Sciences for Health with support from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Updates to the original case study, submitted by the implementing organization in March 2021, appear in the final section of this case study.
Counterfeit drugs are believed to be responsible for an alarming number of deaths, especially in the developing world. According to a study by Y.A. Chowdary et al., all types of products – whether affordable, expensive, generic or branded – are being counterfeited and emerge in community pharmacies, hospitals, and other less-regulated settings. Previous methods have been developed to combat the problem, yet proved unsuccessful. However, the use of ubiquitous information and communication technology (ICT) tools has proven to be more promising.
Bright Simons, a Ghanaian social entrepreneur, has developed a phone-based system called mPedigree to tackle the problem of counterfeit drugs. mPedigree is an innovative anti-counterfeit ICT software application that seeks to empower the consumer so that they have a way of verifying their medication’s safety. Through the provision of a free text message service, users are able to verify the origin and authenticity of drug treatments before use.
The core technology was invented in 2005 and mPedigree was formally launched in Ghana in 2007. Since its launch, the service has expanded to India, Nigeria, East Africa and South Asia.
mPedigree protects consumers from counterfeit drugs in regions with low literacy and low technical capacity. The model relies on negotiating deals with phone and drug companies and having manufacturers implement the program at the lowest possible cost. Matching the technology platform to regional infrastructure, Hewlett Packard (HP) created a cloud-based system that tracks pharmaceutical supply chain data on the back end, while leveraging the high mobile penetration in region for the consumer interface. The innovative system allows buyers to verify the authenticity of medicines for free by text messaging a unique scratch-off code found on the product to a universal number. This request is routed to mPedigree’s servers and consumers receive a quick response to authenticate their purchase.
Global partnerships have been developed with Fortune 500 companies, over two dozen telecom agencies, regulators, and pharmaceutical companies. In 2011, Themis Medicare became the first Indian healthcare company to sign up with the mPedigree Network. As of February 2013, mPedigree’s verification codes have appeared on almost ten million packs of medicine in Ghana, Kenya, India and Nigeria. Four other countries are currently conducting a beta launch.
Through an unparalleled integration across corporations, governments, and service providers, mPedigree is enabling consumers in the developing world to place absolute confidence in any medication they purchase or receive in the open market or from any provision outlet in the public sector. Fast, secure, and easily accessible in remote areas, the system addresses the main barriers to counterfeit monitoring and has helped avert the numerous deaths associated with patients ingesting counterfeit drugs. It is a strong example of how technology is meeting the challenge of identifying these dangerous and lethal drugs.
mPedigree works in over a dozen countries across Africa, Asia, and the Middle East through partnerships among regulators, major tech utilities, brand owners, and trade associations to create and police the supply chain through the dissemination of cutting-edge tools that suppress counterfeit and substandard goods, and boost legitimate commerce through big data, analytics, direct-to-consumer engagement, market surveillance, regulatory digitization, and track-and-trace technology. mPedigree’s technology is “user-elastic,” in that it can be scaled down to the simplest tools, such as unstructured supplementary service data (USSD) and SMS, and dialed up to the most innovative capabilities, such as predictive computing apps and portals. Consumers, manufacturers, brand owners, and government agencies are able to use mPedigree’s technology for connecting to a digital marketplace.
Recent accomplishments include:
mPedigree continues to deepen its partnerships with governments, including Nigeria’s National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, Kenya’s Plant Health Inspectorate Service, and Tanzania’s Official Seed Certification. mPedigree’s flagship Goldkeys platform is redefining how consumers interact with products in a market; how industry renews its mandate of consumer protection; and how governments—backed by actionable data—are fighting market oppressors, like counterfeiters, and saving millions of lives globally in the process.
Original Case Study
Information was excerpted from:
Chowdary, YA, et. al. “A Review on Anti-Counterfeit Packaging and Use of ICT Tools to Combat the Issue of Counterfeiting.” International Journal of Pharmaceutical & Biological Archives. 3.4 (2011): 706-711. Print.
Jack, Andrew. “Faking It.” Feature of BMJ 345.e7836 (2012). Print.
“Mission and Vision.” mPedigree. Web.
Simons, Bright. “mPedigree: An African Blueprint for Consumer Empowerment.” Skoll World Forum. n.d. Web.
Zedlmayer, Gabi. “mPedigree: A Collective Impact Case Study.” Stanford Social Innovation Review. 20 May 2011. Web.
mPedigree (website), https://mpedigree.com/