Building blocks


Meet Angshuman Deb, an Executive Architect with IBM Watson Health from Maryland, USA. Angshuman is part of the IBM Health Corps team working with CARE India to build a proof of concept platform that integrates disparate data sets and provides actionable visualizations in order to assist public health decision makers more efficiently manage the essential drug supply chain.

What does an solution architect do?

A solution architect takes an idea that’s expressed in the form of a business question and turns that into something developers can write in code. I work to understand a problem, define the components to be built, the data to be captured, and how the front end talks to the back end. Like the architect of a building, I determine what the solution will look like. I choose the materials, but I’m not the expert who actually lays the tiles. I know what roof is needed, but I don’t put the shingles on.

What are we trying to do here in Bihar?

We’re trying to answer key questions that haven’t been possible to answer because of siloed data applications. Specifically, we’re looking at the drug supply chain, making sure there is the right medicine provisioned, at the right time, at the right cost. Here in Bihar, it’s a demand driven system. A single person – the civil surgeon of a district – raises a demand. But today, there is no data-driven forecasting occurring. It’s guesswork.

So the first key question we’re helping to answer is from the point of view of the civil surgeon, how do I better forecast my needs – to meet patients’ health needs and to make sure I’m not taking away resources from another district that might need them. We’re looking at what is the optimal point to just-in-time deliver drugs to patients. By leveraging consumption data, we can  help answer the question of forecasting.

The second key question is how do I measure performance across the state, as a principal secretary. Looking at consumption data alone doesn’t give us a true picture. We need to look at supply too.  We’re applying a data science approach to help decision makers find which districts are high and low performing around efficiency of the supply chain.

What data-related improvements do you think could make a difference improving analytics for drug supply chain in Bihar, India?

  1. Tracking drug consumption all the way to the last mile, to the ASHAs (Accredited Social Health Activists) and APHCs (Additional Primary Health Centers). This gives a fuller picture of where drugs are moving through the system.
  2. Having the person at the drug counter enter information on what has been prescribed, not just what has been distributed. One way to improve this is by having an e-prescription solution as well.
  3. Having master data for drug names and categories. If this permeates every application you build, every district, this will enable Bihar to do magnificent analytics projects on drug prescription, supply, and consumption patterns. So much of our effort was spent on data cleansing because of differences in drug names, dosage, etc.

What will you take back with you from this Health Corps experience?

Memories of a great team. We didn’t know each other before coming here. But the way we worked together in just three weeks – I feel like we’ve been working together for the last three years. We trust each other, we aren’t ashamed to admit when we make mistakes, and then we fix them. It’s a great team.


care IBM team photoIBM Health Corps and CARE team

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