Free State gets an ‘ATM pharmacy’ to cut patient waiting times to under five minutes

Bloemfontein – Tuesday, 25 September 2018: A ground breaking ‘ATM pharmacy’ that gives patients with chronic illnesses repeat medication in under five minutes, was unveiled during Pharmacy Month in Bloemfontein this morning.

The first Pharmacy Dispensing Unit™ (PDU™) in the Free State is at Twin City Mall, a central community shopping centre which is on main transport routes and is open for extended hours including weekends and public holidays.

The innovative PDU™ was developed by a team comprising experts from Right to Care and Right ePharmacy and deployed in collaboration with the Free State Department of Health.

The Pharmacy Dispensing Unit™ (PDU™) works like an ATM for medication, with Skype-like audio-visual interaction between patient and a remotely located tele-pharmacy contact centre. Patients are able to talk to pharmacists in a call centre 400km away in Centurion, Gauteng showcasing the benefits of tele-pharmacy to patients in rural and outlying areas.  This allows patients to access accurate medicine information and counselling from qualified pharmacy staff.

The dispensing data is hosted in a secure cloud-based electronic software environment that interfaces with the robotic technology to dispense and label medication at the point of patient collection and interaction.

The launch of the dispensing unit in the Free State is the second phase of the Central Medicine Dispensing and Distribution (CCMDD) programme that will expand access to chronic medication for patients in rural communities. Further innovations that will be added to enhance access include a high-volume fast lane pre-dispensing service at the Twin City Mall PDUTM site and Prescription Collection Units (PCUsTM).  PCUsTM are inexpensive, distribution and collection lockers which will be placed at various locations throughout the area as alternative medicine collection points.

This site services patients from primary facilities as well as chronic patients that are referred from tertiary and district hospitals. The technology will therefore positively impact high patient volume institutions such as district hospitals, regional hospitals and community health centre facilities as well as clinics by reducing the patient load and therefore waiting times.

Right to Care CEO, Professor Ian Sanne says, “Our alliances made this innovation possible and we are grateful to the Free State Provincial Health Department for partnering to make this work. We also thank the Global Fund for monetary support. PDUsTM ensure accurate dispensing and quick collection for clinically stable patients on chronic medication. Driven by sophisticated technology, patients’ concerns and information needs are still handled personally by tele-pharmacists.”

MEC for Health in the Free State province Montseng Tsiu says, “This is a great step forward for patients in our city as this technologically advanced pharmacy will dramatically reduce waiting times and congestion in public healthcare facilities in Mangaung.

“The system is run by qualified pharmacists and pharmacy assistants and integrates with the clinical management processes of patients with chronic conditions at public facilities. It also reminds patients when to collect their medication which improves adherence. The date for the next collection is shown on the patient’s receipt and prescription collection reminders are sent by SMS. Late collections are immediately identified and flagged for follow up. Patients are serviced in all eleven languages and there is on site support to help patients interact with the technology.”

Dr David Motau, Head of Department for the Free State Department of Health says, “Today is World Pharmacist Day and it is befitting to honour pharmacists in the province through initiatives that advance improved access pharmaceutical services. We are also launching this initiative during national Pharmacy month because it supports the National Department of Health’s Strategy for Improving Medicine Availability (SIMA), adherence and decanting through implementation of the Central Chronic Medicine Dispensing and Distribution Programme (CCMDD). Ultimately, this new PDU at Twin City shopping centre in Bloemfontein is about improving the patient experience, providing quality clinical care and decreasing patient numbers and congestion at our surrounding public health facilities.”

Ian Hove, programme manager for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, “This ATM-like medication dispenser demonstrates innovative thinking to overcome challenges we encounter in ensuring people stay on HIV treatment or treatment for other chronic illnesses. What has been launched today is only phase one of a larger programme.  We are pleased to have partnered with Right ePharmacy on this and other innovations for people living with HIV. The PDUs and PCUs are innovative solutions that use technology to move beyond traditional healthcare delivery. It is an example of the Global Fund’s commitment to the people of South Africa to create a healthier future for all.”

Medicine is dispensed by the PDU™ is a simple 5-step process:

  • Patient scans barcode on pharmacy card and enters PIN
  • Patient talks to a tele-pharmacist
  • The prescription and or items are selected (and amended)
  • The medicine is robotically dispensed and labelled and drops in the collection bin
  • Patient takes medicines and a receipt which indicates next collection date.

Fanie Hendriksz, managing director of Right ePharmacy comments, “This pharmacy enhances access to quality pharmaceutical services and improves patient convenience. The tele-pharmacy further enhances the quality of care that we are providing through the dispensing units. The early benefits have shown valuable patient and community data trends that are useful for meeting population needs and health services planning.  The technology is making it easier for people with various illnesses to access medication, ultimately improving adherence and health outcomes.”

ENDS

Photographs are available here: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1tumJdQFDdVVlxMgIo9t3mMowAgKcoWzm?usp=sharing

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