Optimizing Access to Healthcare Services: Riders for Health

A lack of access to appropriate, affordable, and reliable motorized transport prevents millions of people from accessing healthcare services. Riders for Health (Riders) has created a unique system that guarantees healthcare services to 47 million people across five African countries, many of whom live in rural and remote regions. 

The organization has developed an award-winning system that optimizes transport logistics in low-resource settings. Challenges in these environments include a lack of reliable or affordable private or public transport, long distances from communities to health centers, challenging terrain, low fuel availability, and poor connectivity and data systems.

Riders’ unique system procures suitable vehicles, trains riders and drivers, and provides ongoing maintenance and fuel. Vehicles in their fleet include motorcycles for community health workers and motorcycle couriers and off-road ambulances designed specifically for challenging terrain. 

Evolution of the Riders system is essential to ensure the latest technology and knowledge is being used to give the hardest-to-reach communities the best access to healthcare possible to communities however remote.

With this in mind, Riders, Lesotho, a longstanding partner of the Lesotho government, has teamed up with DataKind and volunteers from Operations Research Society of South Africa (ORSSA) to build route optimization software to enhance their work in the region. Combining DataKind’s technical expertise and ORSSA members’ knowledge of Southern Africa’s geography and infrastructure, the group aims to increase health equity across Lesotho’s communities. 

The route optimization software will ensure medical couriers’ take the fastest and safest routes possible. Optimizing the Riders’ routes means patients receive timely care and treatment. Reducing delays is amongst the most significant actions frontline health workers can take to reduce preventable deaths.

“Constantly optimizing our service for our community members is important to us so it’s been a pleasure working with DataKind and ORSSA on improving our medical courier service. With their support, we’ll be able to maximize the population covered and the efficiency of our services in Lesotho, helping us in the battle against HIV, TV, and COVID-19 and ensure patients receive the care and treatment they need as soon as possible. 

Our sample transport system creates a lot of data, for both health and transport metrics. As we move from traditional paper-based recording systems to digital, we’re able to use this data like never before. Our partnership with DataKind and ORSSA has been a powerful game changer. We can now improve our strategic decision making which ultimately means a better service for our community members.”

-Simon Devine, Research, Development, & Digital Lead, Riders for Health

We’re honored to work alongside the ORSSA team to develop a route optimization solution for the Riders fleet of transport couriers in Lesotho, so patients can receive timely care and treatment. We’re excited to expand our partnership, increasing health equity across these communities!

Riders for Health DataCorps Team: David Clark (Data Ambassador), Carike Karsten (Project Manager), Robert Bennetto (Data Engineer), Tshediso Letseleha (Data Engineer), Berndt Lindner (Data Engineer), Theo Mathema (Data Engineer), Handre Williams (Data Engineer)

Frontline Health Systems Impact Practice: We’re honored to work with Riders for Health under our Frontline Health Systems Impact Practice. We’ve evolved our long-term projects into a program to drive sector-wide change called Impact Practices. The first of its kind, our Impact Practices position DataKind to meet the needs of multiple organizations within a sector, which give our solutions a pathway to scale and support systems change efforts. 

Image above: Riders for Health, photography by Tom Oldham.

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