Bihar, India, mines data to meet medication needs

Bihar, India
Responsibility Practice:

What we did

The state of Bihar in northeast India is home to more than 100 million people, with almost 90 percent living in rural areas. At public health facilities, access to medications is poor — only 30 percent to 50 percent are available — even as the list of essential drugs has expanded in recent years.

Forecasting which drugs are needed in Bihar typically has not been based on data, which means some facilities run out of medications, while others throw away expired ones. Many patients end up going without, or for those who can pay, going to expensive private pharmacies. This is especially burdensome in a state where one third of the population lives in poverty.

Making better use of data could help solve the problem.

A big hinderance is that data on drug consumption resides in one IT system, while data on drug procurement and distribution lives in another system. Neither are linked to the other. So decision-makers are unable to order the right amounts of medications to match ever-changing needs.

IBM Health Corps and CARE India joined forces to show how integrating data can improve the supply flow of essential medicines. In three weeks, the IBM Health Corps team built a platform that merged the two datasets and provided visualizations of the data to help those who make the decisions — such as district-level administrators and state bureaucrats — understand gaps, wastage, and where to prioritize.

Integrating the data can help avoid drug shortages for patients and reduce their out-of-pocket costs.

Bihar doesn’t lack health data, but it needed some help to make its data more usable. CARE India and IBM Health Corps showed how to tap data to make better decisions, which means better health care.