Advancing the eLMIS During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Feb 5, 2022

Kaluwila Chingembu and Martin Nyirenda, Pharmacists at Levy Mwanawasa University Teaching Hospital, Lusaka.

“A good manager is not a person who can do the work better than his men; he is a person who can get his men to do the work better than he can.” – Frederick W. Smith

The Electronic Supply Chain Management Information System (eSCMIS) project, funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, has created processes and networks that have been embedded into the management of the Electronic Logistics Management Information System (eLMIS), helping the Ministry of Health overcome obstacles in ensuring the system in upgraded to the latest standardized version countrywide.

The future is automated. Automation enables better service delivery, improving efficiency, patient management, and data retrieval. This is especially true in Zambian healthcare, which is becoming increasingly automated. Regardless, implementing eHealth systems in developing countries is fraught with difficulties. These include a lack of infrastructure, manpower, electricity, and internet speed. When facilities need to upgrade to the most recent version of the eLMIS, these issues arise in Zambia.

Our MoH colleagues have been trained in system management since the project began, says Jeremy Sikazwe, Director of Systems Implementation and Support for USAID eSCMIS. ” We start from the grassroots building capacity with the people we work with, from eLMIS users like pharmacists and lab technicians at the facilities we implement to our colleagues at Zambia Medicines & Medical Supplies Agency (ZAMMSA). despite the COVID-19 pandemic, we upgraded 1074 of the existing 1102 sites to eLMIS 4.2.5, leaving only 28 sites that required physical intervention.”

The project has created processes and systems to assist the GRZ in taking ownership of the system, allowing MoH personnel to assist with technical management, implementation, and support. According to Jeremy, there are key project support personnel stationed in each of the ten provinces to provide technical support in the districts and provinces, who have identified and trained super users and champions from among MOH staff who have demonstrated a good aptitude not only in system use but also in its implementation and support.

These networks and interventions aided in upgrading facilities that required manual assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic. Staff at facilities could seek assistance from key project staff in their provinces, super users, or champions. “I’ve been working with the eLMIS since its initial implementation in 2014,” says Lorent Kabamba, Ndola district pharmacy technologist and eLMIS champion. “By working with project staff on implementation and technical support, I’ve been able to help my province when needed. This is how I was able to assist facilities in my province that were having difficulty pulling the upgrade.” Some provincial staff were able to pool resources and upgrade their servers by transporting them to the facility with the best network or sending them to the district or provincial health offices for manual intervention.

The upgrades of 1,074 facilities took less than 30 days. The remaining 28 facilities requiring physical visits due to faulty equipment have been scheduled for support alongside the ongoing first round of new system deployment happening between January 24th to February 11th 2022.
The USAID eSCMIS’s Sustainability and Transition Plan focuses on the government taking over the eLMIS project activities. Throughout the project, GRZ staff must be involved in development, deployments, training, and support at the national, provincial and district levels. To this effect, the project continues to build MoH’s capacity to manage the eLMIS.