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South African pharmacy smart locker cuts queues, wins award

ITN News Editor
By ITN News Editor July 24, 2019 13:29

South African pharmacy smart locker cuts queues, wins award

A South African has become the first from his country to win the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Africa Prize, after designing a smart locker system which dispenses medicines to patients with chronic illnesses. Pelebox was created by electrical engineer Neo Hutiri who won $25,000 ($31,136) in prize money for the UK-based award. Hutiri told Reuters he decided to develop the technology after realising patients were spending too much time in queues, waiting to collect medicines at healthcare facilities. In 2014 Hutiri was being treated for tuberculosis and had to wait for at least two hours each time he went to collect refills of his medication, he said. “I was trained to build solutions and product. The idea was to then say, ‘Can we build a product that is patient-centric?’ That speaks to us first as patient, while still adhering to all the regulatory requirements, and all of the, framework that the department of health wants to exist to improve access to care,” Hutiri said.
The lockers are stocked with prescription drugs placed there by health workers. Patients then receive a notification on their phones and use an ATM-like machine and a PIN to access the medicine.
Gontse Nthathe is a pharmacist at Stanza Bopape II clinic in Pretoria.
“The machine makes it easier because some patients would say coming to the clinic is stress already for them – and then waiting again for medication, it’s another stress,” he said.
Last year South Africa launched a similar vending machine called the “ATM pharmacy” that also gives out medicines in public hospitals.
Hutiri says winning the award came as a surprise. He is now working on channeling the prize money into developing Pelebox further and manufacturing more units.
“It was very rewarding for us, it was very inspiring seeing that actually, the work that we do is on a global level and it can compete, it can scale,” Hutiri said.

ITN News Editor
By ITN News Editor July 24, 2019 13:29

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