Research meetup 7 – Redesigning Sample Transportation in Malawi Through Improved Data Sharing and Daily Route Optimization

Centralized diagnostic networks play a critical role in the delivery of essential healthcare services in resource-limited settings.
These large-scale diagnostic networks depend on sample transportation (ST) systems to move medical samples (e.g. blood, sputum) between healthcare facilities and laboratories. Operational inefficiencies in these transportation systems contribute to unnecessary delays in the communication of diagnostic results to patients, leading to worse health outcomes. Our work is focussed on improving the efficiency of a national transportation system operated by Riders For Health in Malawi. We propose a two-part system that uses a low-cost, feature phone data sharing platform to monitor sample volumes at healthcare facilities, and an optimized sample transportation model to generate efficient routes for ST couriers on a daily basis. This system has been operating continuously in three districts in Malawi since August 2019. Since implementation, the proportion of unnecessary courier trips has been reduced by 55% and average ST delays have been shortened by an estimated 25%.

Link to paper:

Bio: Emma Gibson is a PhD candidate at the MIT Operations Research Center. Her research interests include optimization, logistics, and machine learning, and she is particularly interested in real-world applications of mathematical models to improve healthcare delivery programs in resource-limited settings. Prior to joining the ORC PhD program, Emma obtained a BSc (Hons) in Mathematical Sciences from the University of the Witwatersrand and an MSc in Logistics from Stellenbosch University

Link to webinar recording

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