Maureen Bisagnano, CEO IHI shares some stories with Kevin Hardy from HardyGroup International about how some ‘unusual’ partnerships are delivering surprising results in delivering care to vulnerable young people in the community. Through clear problem-solution goals, persistence and project champions, some unusual and yet obvious partnerships have been forged. Having the right team who chose to work on the project rather than told to be on a team and who are engaged both through ‘heart’ as well as possessing the right skill set is important to achieving the outcome.

Novartis, the Swiss healthcare company and one of the world’s largest manufacturers of anti-malaria drugs has a similar story. The project champion for Novartis was the CIO, Jim Barrington who faced some scepticism internally that he could solve a supply chain problem given the lack of funds allocated to the project and the challenge of dealing with the bureaucracy of governments in Africa. Essentially the CIO was driven to solve a supply-chain problem of getting the anti-malaria drugs to healthcare facilities in poor, remote areas of Africa. How he engaged partners and project team members with was the emotional goal of ‘saving lives’.

Central to the project which he called SMS for Life, was harnessing the widespread use of mobile phones throughout the developing world to help manage the supply chain. He was clear from the outset in defining the problem and the potential solutions so that prospective partners were engaged through a very clear understanding. He got responses from internal employees, Google, IBM and Vodaphone employees, all of whom were self-funded. The solution they implemented involved SMS text messaging, the internet and Google mapping. Every week, local healthcare workers would send a text message reporting stock levels to a central database. Electronic mapping would show where the stocks were low, which allowed local healthcare workers to order stocks and distribute where they were needed.

The result was that the anti-malaria medication was rarely out of stock and the response rate from local healthcare workers was 95%. The Tanzanian authorities who had agreed to pilot the project approved a national roll out which was funded by Novartis, the Swiss Agency for Development and Medicines for Malaria Venture. SMS for Life has been extended to track other drugs and equipment.