Computerworld Honors Direct Relief Innovation

Direct Relief, a 2012 Computerworld Honors Laureate, was named a finalist in Innovation Monday night at the technology magazine’s award gala held in Washington, D.C.

The Computerworld Honors Program, now in its 24th year, recognizes organizations that use information technology to promote and advance the public welfare, benefit society and change the world for the better. In a year Computerworld calls “especially competitive,” Direct Relief received recognition in Innovation, one of 10 categories, selected by 22 distinguished judges from more than 500 nominations. One winner and four finalists were declared in each category.

Direct Relief stands out for its use of Systems, Applications, and Products in Data Processing (SAP) technology to meet a specific humanitarian need while also achieving a high level of operation efficiency on par with its for-profit partners.

“The nature of Direct Relief’s work – helping people who live in deep poverty or find themselves in an emergency get the medical resources they need –provides tremendous incentive to work smarter, faster, more efficiently and with greater transparency,” said Thomas Tighe, Direct Relief CEO.

Direct Relief deployed SAP software in 2008 out of need to maintain accountability and accuracy in the distribution of pharmaceuticals –the most tightly regulated industry in the world.

The SAP system allows Direct Relief to track every single donated product to the health care facility to which it will be delivered, right down to each individual pill, ointment, stethoscope, or vaccine. The detailed tracking measure helped meet complex U.S. compliance requirements, paving the way for Direct Relief to become the only organization that can distribute prescription medications in all 50 states.

The implementation of SAP technology better engages product donors, healthcare providers and medical professionals with precise information about what is needed and what is available, all in one place. The system helps patients get the prescriptions they need, but can’t afford.

“In Direct Relief’s case, success results in more life-saving medicines to people in need, with accuracy, speed, and transparency at a lower cost,” said Tighe.

Direct Relief’s partner hospitals and clinics who treat underserved communities in the U.S. and more than 70 countries can view the Direct Relief Network inventory in real time and order materials and medications online, free of charge. This format reduces their administrative burden, increasing their ability to focus on patient care while allowing Direct Relief to survey their needs for a more demand driven model.

Also significant, the SAP technology permits Direct Relief to respond faster during disasters by eliminating the lack of precise information about needed products and what is available during the most critical times.

Direct Relief’s visionary work with SAP is far from over. Ross Comstock, IT director, said that Direct Relief has an ambitious “big data” project planned for the upcoming year. The initiative will connect historical data from more than 60 years of humanitarian aid with vast repositories of publicly available global health data, creating a clear and precise picture of where people are suffering from health conditions caused by poverty, disaster and civil unrest that can be shared globally.

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