South Africa Launches Africa’s First ATM Pharmacy

The Pharmacy Dispensing Unit (PDU)

An “ATM pharmacy” that gives patients with chronic illnesses their repeat medication in under three minutes has been launched Alexandra.

The pharmacy dispensing unit (PDU) is the first of its kind in Africa and was developed by a team comprising experts from Right to Care and Right ePharmacy in collaboration with the Gauteng Department of Health.

The PDU works like an ATM for medication, with Skype-like audio-visual interaction between patient and tele-pharmacists, cloud-based electronic software and robotic technology to dispense and label medication.

The PDU dispenses medication in a simple five-step process:

* The patient scans barcode ID book, ID card or pharmacy card and enters PIN;

* The patient talks to a remote pharmacist;

* The prescription and/or items are selected;

* The medicine is robotically dispensed and labelled and drops in the collection slot; and

* The patient takes receipt, which indicates next collection date.

Fanie Hendriksz, MD of Right ePharmacy, comments: “This pharmacy enhances access to quality pharmaceutical services and improves patient convenience. The early benefits have shown valuable patient and community data trends that are needed to improve patient outcomes. The technology is making it easier for people with various illnesses to have access to medication, ultimately improving adherence.”

Right to Care CEO, Professor Ian Sanne, comments: “Our partnerships made this innovation possible and we are grateful to the Gauteng Provincial Health Department and for the contributions of USAID, GIZ who are implementing on behalf of the German Government and Mach4. The PDU was developed to ensure accurate dispensing and quick collection. A clinically stable patient on chronic medication can be given the option to collect chronic prescriptions from the PDU pharmacy. Sites in Diepsloot and two sites in Soweto have also been selected for the pilot of this public pharmacy programme.”

Alexandra Plaza, where the unit is located, is a central community shopping centre which is on transport routes and it is open on weekends and public holidays. Sites in Diepsloot and two sites in Soweto have also been selected for the pilot of this public pharmacy programme. The groundbreaking system allows people to get their medication within three minutes. It’s hoped this will cut congestion at public healthcare facilities.


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