Groundbreaking medical technology enabled the launch of Africa's first pharmacy dispensing unit (PDU) in the Johannesburg suburb of Alexandra on Thursday this week — a self-service ATM-style unit that gives patients with chronic illnesses their repeat medication, reportedly in under three minutes.
The unique innovation – in the crowded blend of apartheid-era township and informal shack settlement just over the hill Sandton – is the first in Africa, and comes after years of trials and technological developments in the medical and tech fields by experts from Right to Care and Right ePharmacy in collaboration with the Gauteng department of health.
The medication is dispensed in a simple five-step process:
- Patient scans barcoded ID book, ID card or pharmacy card and enters PIN;
- Patient talks to a remote pharmacist;
- The prescription and / or items are selected;
- The medicine is robotically dispensed and labelled, and drops into the collection slot;
- Patient takes receipt, which indicates next collection date.
Fanie Hendriksz, managing director of Right ePharmacy, says the PDUs might increase patients' adherence to their medication in South Africa – a crucial obstacle in the path toward equitable healthcare in the country.
"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."