Today’s supply chains are growing in complexity, driven by factors such as globalization and changing market trends. Global health supply chains offer unique challenges and opportunities due to the changing patterns of commodity flows and new demands for responsive and agile supply chains that don’t compromise on the quality of medicines. As a result, the ability to procure and distribute life-saving medicines to patients in an efficient, effective, and timely manner is becoming increasingly difficult. This growing complexity is also limiting the ability to respond to supply chain exceptions such as stockouts and expiries.
Enter information systems. They form the backbone of a supply chain system with a well-coordinated flow of commodities and information, which are key to ensuring consistent coordination across the entire supply chain by providing end-to-end visibility, agility, and, more importantly, patient safety. With effective systems, commodities can move at a faster pace and managers are able to maintain visibility within the supply chain and verify the authenticity of commodities.
However, not all information systems are created equal. Traditional approaches to improving supply chain information systems tend to either focus on a limited number of supply chain processes such as logistics or transportation, on certain levels like central medical stores or service delivery points, or on specific programs such as health commodity groupings (i.e. vaccines) for a particular disease area like HIV/AIDS or malaria. A holistic approach, on the other hand, is overarching across all critical processes, levels, and commodity types.
A Holistic Approach
While supporting global health supply chains in over 60 countries around the world, the USAID Global Health Supply Chain Program-Procurement and Supply Management (GHSC-PSM) project has developed USAID’s Supply Chain Information System Maturity Model (SCISMM) to help countries analyze their current supply chain systems holistically and plan their investments in supply chain information systems accordingly.
The SCISMM is a guiding tool to aid supply chain actors, including governments, donors, and implementing partners/procurement agents, in planning and strategizing around future SCIS investments to enhance the functionality of supply chain operations. The model can be used to evaluate current capabilities or to target priority areas for improvement or development, as in the case of its application in Nepal, Pakistan, and Rwanda.
While the SCISMM has been developed in the context of public health supply chains, it was designed with core supply chain principles in mind, including the Supply Chain Operations Reference (SCOR) model and the American Productivity & Quality Center ((APQC) Framework, and can be applied to any type of commodity. With the maturity model, supply chain information system capabilities such as planning, order management, and warehouse management, as well as foundational capabilities like master data management and interoperability, have been categorized across four maturity levels. Each level defines the extent and maturity of system capabilities. The model provides pre-requisites for each maturity level and an ability to develop baselines and measure improvements as systems mature.
The Maturity Model in Practice
Based on a country’s goals, priorities, and constraints, the SCISMM can be customized to evaluate the supply chain capabilities deployed through information systems and to develop a progressive roadmap for implementing additional functionality. The roadmap can then feed into annual national plans to ensure planned initiatives receive the resources needed. For example, in Pakistan, we used the SCISMM to identify how deeply certain capabilities had been deployed in order to determine which system features needed further implementation support and where new capabilities needed to be developed instead. Similarly, in Nepal, the maturity model was used to evaluate gaps between ongoing and planned supply chain systems and processes. The model was then applied to the development of a tailored plan for prioritizing future information system capabilities.