eVIN eMPOWERING: Skilling women vaccine managers for digital healthcare

Women health workers in India are adopting and using technology at last mile health centres to perform their daily tasks of vaccine management in a smarter way

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Source: UNDP India

Alka Sinha, the vaccine cold chain handler at a public health centre in Bihar, had never used a smartphone until she was introduced to eVIN. “I am a hard-working woman but technology was always a taboo for me. It was a new experience to handle an Android gadget and working on eVIN seemed to be very difficult. So I had my doubts whether I would be able to do it!” An e-step towards efficient vaccine logistics management, eVIN, the Electronic Vaccine Intelligence Network is enabling a simpler and smarter way for health workers to perform their routine task of ensuring vaccine availability at all health centres, at all times.

Women health workers are taking to technology to revolutionize vaccine management in the country. India’s Universal Immunization Programme, one of the country’s most pivotal public health initiatives, is driven by women. More than half the vaccine cold chain handlers responsible for managing vaccine stocks in optimal quantities and temperatures are women. Using the eVIN app, they are able to get complete information about vaccine stocks at their storage centres, at the click of a button. “My vaccine data is in my pocket now and this information has become my power. I get notifications well in time so I place orders for vaccines accordingly, and as a result vaccine stock-outs are rare. I am so happy that through this technology I am able to save more lives,” says Alka.

This confidence is shared by many others. Fifty-year-old Potia Kundo from a tribal community in Madhepura, Bihar, is an auxiliary nurse and midwife. She doubles up as the vaccine cold chain handler at the public health centre in her block. Convinced she would never be able to use a smartphone, Potia refused to attend the eVIN training programme. With some motivation from the eVIN team and district officers, not only did Potia attend the training, but she now enters and tracks all the vaccine data of her store on the mobile app with ease.

Strengthening government health systems by skilling vaccine managers is one of the key components of eVIN. Intensive training programmes are organized at the state, regional and district levels to introduce cold chain handlers to smartphones and digital record-keeping. A large number of participants in these training sessions are women, and mostly from older age groups. Afterwards, continuous support is provided by the vaccine and cold chain manager, placed at every district by UNDP, which helps all the cold chain handlers make timely and correct entries in their eVIN mobile app. “I am so happy to see myself using a smartphone and entering the digital world”, says Potia. “Everything is possible if you truly try.”

Sumati, a cold chain handler at the Mekola Primary Health Centre in Manipur, agrees. “I never knew that a mobile phone could help me so much in my work. Now I have my vaccine stock positions on my fingertips through the eVIN mobile application. After using the eVIN mobile app, I can handle smartphones easily.”

The easy-to-use mobile-based application is bridging the digital divide, especially in rural pockets of the country. This, in turn, has encouraged ownership and accountability. “Before eVIN, I used to face shortage of vaccines during immunization as there was no minimum and maximum level of stock calculation that I could check regularly. Now I can easily indent vaccines on time from the district vaccine store after checking the stock position through the eVIN app,” adds Sumati.

“Recollecting information based on what the nurse-on-duty recorded sometimes led to mistakes and incorrect reports. Now, with transactions done on eVIN daily, it allows the process to be more transparent and makes us aware of what is happening in our own primary health centre. I am now able to connect to the mobile network and make updates myself. This makes me very happy and empowered as I now know that eVIN has increased my ability, which I never imagined could happen at my age,” says Nshenle, the Lady Health Visitor at Chunlika public health centre in Kohima.

By introducing technology to their routine tasks, eVIN has not only improved efficiency in service delivery but empowered these women who ensure a healthy future for India’s children.