Photo: T. Khumalo/VOA
Inventor Neo Hutiri poses in front of one of his Peleboxes.
By Thuso Khumalo
Johannesburg — An innovative system to dispense medicine to patients with chronic illnesses can be taking off in South Africa. The award-winning “Pelebox,” created by South African engineer Neo Hutiri, can be a computer-controlled vending machine stocked with prescription drugs, which patients access using a personal code.
The Pelebox has been hailed as a life saver for many, who use often-crowded South African hospitals as well as clinics. The medicine dispenser resembles the common automated teller machine as well as functions in a similar way.
Hutiri explains why he created the Pelebox.
“If you have been to public clinics, one of the biggest challenges which you face can be spending hours as well as hours to get access to your chronic medication. The idea was very simple: Can we create a technology, locally manufactured, locally born idea where we can get somebody to collect medication in a couple of seconds, instead of waiting for hours?” asked Hutiri.
Details of each patient are uploaded into a computer system connected to the machine. The patient must indicate the clinic or point where they want to get their medication. The machine consists of a simple wall of lockers controlled by a digital system. as well as Hutiri, who once had a chronic illness, explains the most exciting experience for patients.
“We take pre-packed medicine, we could scan the medicine, load which inside the unit. which then sends an SMS to a patient saying ‘Neo your medication can be ready for collection, here can be a one-time pin, please come as well as collect your medication at Winnie Mandela clinic.’ The patient simply walks to the unit. On which touch screen, enters their cell phone together having a pin. which pops open the door. They collect as well as they are on their way,” said Hutiri.
The technology, first introduced in 2016, has been a hit among patients. There are 11 Peleboxes already operational across the country.
For years, 45-year-old Jenifer Shingange, a beneficiary of the technology, had to line up at dawn to collect her medication every month. She says since she started out getting her drugs by the Peleboxes, she chooses a time which suits her, including after work.
“I could like to say very thank you. Thank you so much. What can be doing me excited can be which when I come here I don’t stand in a long queue. I just put my cellphone as well as pin as well as press as well as get my treatment,” said Shingange.
The Aurum Institute, a leading health care organization which has partnered with Hutiri, expects to introduce 10 more machines inside city of Ekurhuleni. Up to 26 machines will be functioning across the country by September.
With each of the Peleboxes serving over 1,0 patients a month, authorities say they will go a long way toward shortening lines in hospitals as well as clinics.