Click here to unlock chronic meds in under one minute

South Africa (Johannesburg)

This isn’t clickbait: an electrical engineer based in South Africa has designed an automated locker system that allows people with chronic conditions to collect their repeat medication in under one minute with a one-time PIN sent to their phone. We love projects like this: technology simply making things better.

In South Africa, people with chronic illness often have to wait many hours to pick up their medication at clinics. Pelebox is a smart locker system which gives them immediate access to lifesaving meds with the click of a button; an SMS text message unlocks relief, so that lockers cut queues down from three-and-a-half hours to under 22 seconds.

So, no more waiting for hours in long queues.

In January 2014, Neo Hutiri was diagnosed with Tuberculosis (TB) and spent six months regularly driving back and forth to his local clinic for treatment and medicine: “It’s really an unpleasant experience to wait the whole day just to manage your condition,” he explains.

“I was collecting medication from my public clinic in Bophelong township in Vanderbijlpark, an industrial manufacturing small town. Most of the other patients that waited along with me had to miss work just to collect their medicine. I really started paying attention to why this problem still persists.”

Stable chronic patients typically have a six-month repeat prescription. The Pelebox is a smart locker solution with an SMS notification system for chronic medication collection tracking. Pre-packed medication is placed in cubicles and the patients are notified that their prescriptions are ready for collection. Each patient is validated by entering a one-time PIN and their cellphone number, which electronically unlocks their compartment.

This novel solution can be placed at non-medical facilities and aligns with the Department of Health program aimed at reducing congestion in healthcare facilities. Thus various locations can act as alternative pick-up-points.

Neo adds that it helps with illnesses which may have a stigma associated to them, like HIV. South Africa has world’s biggest antiretroviral therapy (ART) programme for patients living with HIV and AIDS. As a result, a patient’s experience tends to be one of long waiting times. This poses potential adherence barriers which may lead to poor health outcomes. “If you collect your ARV medication for HIV from a locker, you don’t have to deal with the fear that somebody’s watching.”

In 2019, Neo won the $32,000 (£25,000) Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation from the Royal Academy of Engineering. Watch how the Pelebox works:

AtlasAction: Learn how Pelebox cuts waiting time to 22 seconds.

Written by

Lisa Goldapple, Editor, Atlas of the Future (13 June 2017)

Project leader

Neo Hutiri

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