Aiding the HIV fight

About 1,8 million people in South Africa receive antiretroviral treatment (ARV) for HIV/Aids and it’s vital the medication reaches the right patients. This places a heavy burden on pharmacists already labouring under an administrative load that consumes vast amounts of their precious time because dispensing is still done manually.

Vodacom has taken note of the chemists’ dilemma and is now relieving the pressure on them by rolling out the iDart system countrywide. With this technology more of their tasks are performed digitally and automatically. With Vodacom’s support iDart (Intelligent Dispensing of Antiretroviral Treatment) is now used at 25 centres and staff have received training in the system since 2009. This has increased the number of key centres where iDart is used to more than 100. iDart indirectly benefits a further 100 smaller service points, such as clinics.

iDart software was developed by Cell-Life, the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation, the Cape Peninsula University of Technology and the University of Cape Town. This team effort greatly improved the public healthcare provided to about 300 000 affected patients countrywide.

The Amajuba district in KwaZulu-Natal, whose main hospitals are in Newcastle and Madadeni, especially benefited from Vodacom’s involvement. In Newcastle, the thirdbiggest urban area in KwaZulu-Natal, several low-income households now receive improved medical assistance. “The hospitals are very busy and we used to spend a lot of time labelling medication,” Abdus-Samad Cassim, the district manager of pharmaceutical services, says.

By using the still-growing iDart database for patients, easily identifiable labels for medicine containers can now quickly be printed in the desired home language. The right regiment in the patient’s home language with clearly printed instructions is now selected to minimise human error. The unique barcodes on the labels can be scanned at various control points to track the medication’s progress along the supply chain. This means medicine can be safely sent to the most convenient point for the patient as identified by iDart. Smaller clinics in the referral system with limited infrastructure are also benefiting from improvements that make their jobs so much easier. ARV losses due to medicine that’s written off or stolen can now also be monitored.

Instances where patients don’t collect their medication are now drastically reduced thanks to this system. iDart also plays an important part in creating accurate patient profiles and ensuring patients stay in the healthcare system. Pharmacists use the software to manage the supply levels of ARVs and ensure they work more efficiently. The software is also used to compile accurate reports for the specific requirements of administrative, financial and government donors.

Cassim believes iDart’s biggest advantage is that it reduces the handling time for patients when the medication is dispensed. Instead of about two minutes it now takes less than 40 seconds. This time-saving now leaves more time for patient care and in addition, pharmacists can evaluate prescriptions and focus on important issues such as blood analysis.

The overall result is greater job satisfaction among pharmacists, the clinicians’ task is made easier and patients, the most important stakeholders, are left more satisfied as well. “The only feedback we ever got from patients was complaints and now we only get positive feedback. It makes us feel good when our patients are happy,” Cassim says. With its user-friendly technology Vodacom is helping to speed up the progress in the struggle against HIV. This improves people’s lives and gives the public healthcare system the vital boost it needs to make it more efficient.

For more info about Vodacom’s public healthcare campaigns, go to

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