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

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

A groundbreaking ‘ATM pharmacy’ that gives patients with chronic illnesses repeat medication in under five minutes, was unveiled during Pharmacy Month in Bloemfontein.

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.”

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

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

Edited by Daniëlle Kruger
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