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Improving pharmacy and clinic operations so HIV patients can stay on treatment

An early leader in the fight against HIV/AIDS, the Centre for Infectious Disease Research, Zambia is a large non-profit based in Lusaka with links to the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. In partnership with hundreds of Zambia’s public-sector clinics, CIDRZ aims to improve health care for all Zambians through research, training, and public health programs.

This project focused on within-clinic pharmacy operations to address what CIDRZ had identified as three significant hurdles in continuity of care: 1) long patient wait-times; 2) low staff motivation and morale; and 3) erratic drug supply. The GlobalHealth Lab team planned and tested operational improvements to reduce wait-times, increase consistency in filling prescriptions, and ensure smoother clinic functioning. Students helped to cultivate a group of leaders within the organization to champion, implement, and sustain operational improvements they piloted on site.

In eight days of observation and collaboration, the team tracked 500 patients as they moved through clinic operations. By studying the flow of patients and folders, they identified key bottlenecks that conspired to increase wait times, frustrate both patients and staff, and reduce the likelihood of accurate dispersal of medicine. Proposals to address these problems included providing patients with larger supplies of their medicine; training staff to better facilitate folder processing; and equipping staff to identify inefficiencies in processes and suggest appropriate changes. Some process time reductions were seen quickly after implementation, enabling the pharmacy to fill more prescriptions. Secondly, students demonstrated the value of thinking innovatively about problems to come up with quick fixes as a first step to larger solutions. Seeing the benefits of straight-forward operational adjustments spurred excitement and generated discussion for further improvement.

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Press: CIDRZ collaborates with MIT Sloan School of Management Groundwork Initiative for Global Health