Pharmacy system using Ubuntu to fight AIDs


Written in Java and released under the GPL, iDART (intelligent Dispensing of Antiretroviral Treatment) is a pharmacy system designed for use at antiretroviral (ARV) pharmacies in the public health sector. Initially distributed only as software, it was generally implemented on machines using Windows. Due to issues of reliability and security, Cell-Life have created iDART-in-a-box, which is a complete system running on Ubuntu Linux.

Initiated in 2004 as a partnership between Cell-Life and the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation, iDART is currently used at five different sites around South Africa and over 8 500 HIV+ patients receive their ARV drugs through iDART. Designed specifically for the management of ARV dispensing, the system allows pharmacists to accurately track patient treatment, manage stock and generate reports automatically.

iDART was initially distributed as software only, with the PC, peripherals and operating system (invariably Windows) supplied by the facility. However, as pharmacists and patients depend on it, concerns over network connectivity, technical support for facility-supplied components and security on Windows machines resulted in Cell-Life creating an alternative deployment strategy.

'iDART-in-a-box' runs on Ubuntu Linux, and includes a mid-range PC, a Zebra label printer, an HP DeskJet report printer, a barcode scanner, an uninterruptible power supply and a GSM modem. Hardware costs are approximately R10 000, and there are no software licensing costs. Additionally, Cell-Life offers installation, training and support services, ensuring that the system is adopted quickly, and runs smoothly from the moment of deployment.

The iDART database can be backed up securely over the cellular network using the GSM modem, with backups being stored on Cell-Life's servers. This improves the quality of support available to remote sites without Internet connectivity. Also, in the event of theft, fire or hardware failure, Cell-Life can readily replace the PC and peripherals supplied with iDART-in-a-box. Because of the backup strategy, the system can be restored to its operational state in a very short time. Ubuntu was chosen as it is a stable, secure operating system that can be configured so that its primary function is to run iDART in a secure environment.

With the launch of iDART-in-a-box Cell-Life hopes to further its commitment to supplying community health clinics with systems that work, all the time.