Reducing Stock-Outs of Life Saving Malaria Commodities Using Mobile Phone Text-Messaging: SMS for Life Study in Kenya

Reducing Stock-Outs of Life Saving Malaria Commodities Using Mobile Phone Text-Messaging: SMS for Life Study in Kenya

Sophie Githinji, Samwel Kigen, Dorothy Memusi, Andrew Nyandigisi, Andrew Wamari, Alex Muturi, George Jagoe, René Ziegler, Robert W Snow and Dejan Zurovac


Background: Health facility stock-outs of life saving malaria medicines are common across Africa. Innovative ways of addressing this problem are urgently required. We evaluated whether SMS based reporting of stocks of artemetherlumefantrine (AL) and rapid diagnostic tests (RDT) can result in reduction of stock-outs at peripheral facilities in Kenya.

Methods/Findings: All 87 public health facilities in five Kenyan districts were included in a 26 week project. Weekly facility stock counts of four AL packs and RDTs were sent via structured incentivized SMS communication process from health workers’ personal mobile phones to a web-based system accessed by district managers. The mean health facility response rate was 97% with a mean formatting error rate of 3%. Accuracy of stock count reports was 79% while accuracy of stock-out reports was 93%. District managers accessed the system 1,037 times at an average of eight times per week. The system was accessed in 82% of the study weeks. Comparing weeks 1 and 26, stock-out of one or more AL packs declined by 38 percentage-points. Total AL stock-out declined by 5 percentage-points and was eliminated by the end of the project. Stockout declines of individual AL packs ranged from 14 to 32 percentage-points while decline in RDT stock-outs was 24 percentage-points. District managers responded to 44% of AL and 73% of RDT stock-out signals by redistributing commodities between facilities. In comparison with national trends, stock-out declines in study areas were greater, sharper and more sustained.

Conclusions: Use of simple SMS technology ensured high reporting rates of reasonably accurate, real-time facility stock data that were used by district managers to undertake corrective actions to reduce stock-outs. Future work on stock monitoring via SMS should focus on assessing response rates without use of incentives and demonstrating effectiveness of such interventions on a larger scale.

View the full article on the PLoS ONE website.