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A cross-sectional pilot study assessing needs and attitudes to implementation of Information and Communication Technology for rational use of medicines among healthcare staff in rural Tanzania

Jessica Nilseng1, Lars L Gustafsson1, Amos Nungu23, Pia Bastholm-Rahmner4, Dennis Mazali5, Björn Pehrson3 and Jaran Eriksen13*

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Clinical Pharmacology, Department of Laboratory Medicine, Karolinska Institutet at Karolinska University Hospital Huddinge, 141 86 Stockholm, Sweden

2 Department of Computer Studies, Dar es Salaam Institute of Technology, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

3 School of Information and Communications Technology, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden

4 Department of Health Care Development, Public Healthcare Administration, Stockholm County Council, Stockholm, Sweden

5 Dept of hygiene and environmental medicine, Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

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BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making 2014, 14:78  doi:10.1186/1472-6947-14-78

Published: 27 August 2014



In resource-poor countries access to essential medicines, suboptimal prescribing and use of medicines are major problems. Health workers lack updated medical information and treatment support. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) could help tackle this. The impact of ICT on health systems in resource-poor countries is likely to be significant and transform the practice of medicine just as in high-income countries. However, research for finding the best way of doing this is needed. We aimed to assess current approaches to and use of ICT among health workers in two rural districts of Tanzania in relation to the current drug distribution practices, drug stock and continuing medical information (CME), as well as assessing the feasibility of using ICT to improve ordering and use of medicines.


This pilot study was conducted in 2010–2011, mapping the drug distribution chain in Tanzania, including problems and barriers. The study was conducted in Bunda and Serengeti districts, both part of the ICT4RD (ICT for rural development) project. Health workers involved in drug procurement and use at 13 health facilities were interviewed on use and knowledge of ICT, and their attitudes to its use in their daily work. They were also shown and interviewed about their thoughts on an android tablet application prototype for drug stock inventory and drug ordering, based on the Tanzanian Medical Stores Department (MSD) current paper forms.


The main challenge was a stable supply of essential medicines. Drug supplies were often delayed and incomplete, resulting in stock-outs. All 20 interviewed health workers used mobile phones, 8 of them Smartphones with Internet connection. The Health workers were very positive to the tablet application and saw its potential in reducing drug stock-outs. They also expressed a great need and wish for CME by distance.


The tablet application was easily used and appreciated by health workers, and thus has the potential to save time and effort, reduce transportation costs and minimise drug stock-outs. Furthermore, the android tablet could be used to reach out with CME programs to health care workers at remote health facilities, as well as those in towns.

Access to medicines; Africa; Android tablet; Decision support; Health systems; ICT; iPad; Low-income countries; Rational use of medicines