The Pharmacy Dispensing Unit (PDU) is the first of its kind on the African continent and will reduce congestion in public healthcare facilities. This works like an ATM for medication, with Skype-like audio-visual interaction between patient and pharmacists and robotic technology to dispense medication.
The innovative PDU is the first of its kind in Africa. It 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.
“Improving access to medication is key,” said Klaus Streicher, Deputy Head of Mission at the German Embassy in Pretoria. “The PDU promises to significantly improve people’s ability to deal with their illnesses. The German government is glad to be a part of this multi-stakeholder partnership which brings together government, international donors and the private sector.”
Right to Care CEO, Professor Ian Sanne says, “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. While driven by sophisticated technology, patients’ concerns and information needs are still handled one-on-one by tele-pharmacists.
“Alexandra Plaza, where our first PDU 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 Soweto have also been selected for the pilot of this public pharmacy programme.” Gauteng Health MEC, Gwen Ramokgopa, says,
“This is a great step forward for patients in our city as it dramatically reduces waiting times and congestion in public healthcare facilities. In Alex, there are eight primary healthcare clinics in the vicinity which refer patients.
“The system is run by qualified pharmacists and pharmacy assistants and integrates with the clinical management of patients with chronic conditions at public facilities. It also supports adherence. The date for the next collection is shown on the receipt the patient receives when collecting medication and prescription collection reminders are sent by SMS. Late collections are immediately flagged for follow up. It also offers patients service in all eleven languages and there is support at the site to help patients deal with the technology.”
Medicine is dispensed in a simple 5-step process:
- Patient scans barcode 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 in the collection slot
- Patient takes receipt which indicates next collection date.
The ground-breaking ATM pharmacy that gives patients with chronic illnesses their repeat medication in under three minutes was officially opened on March 15, 2018 in Alexandra Township with financial support of Germany.