Meet Pelebox – the convenient medicine ‘ATM’

Meet Pelebox – the convenient medicine ‘ATM’Makonko Mokwetli uses the Pelebox to receive medication. Photo: Marcia Zali / Health-e

To reduce the long hours patients endure to get their medication at clinics, Neo Hutiri has invented the Pelebox – a simple medication-dispensing solution.

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The recently launched Pelebox changes the way patients with chronic diseases receive their medication.

Inventor Neo Hutiri says his experience as a tuberculosis patient in 2014 inspired him to come up with a solution to ensure patients receive treatment quicker.

The Pelebox is a medication dispensing machine. Photo: Marcia Zali / Health-e

“I discovered that as a patient, you spend a lot of time at the clinic and sometimes you wonder if things could go faster,” he says. “I ended up creating technology that would [shorten the waiting period] from three hours to two minutes.”

Hutiri came up with the smart locker, Pelebox, which has different boxes. Each box is loaded with different medication for patients to collect.

The name was inspired by the Setswana word pele meaning ‘first, in front and fast’ – words which Hutiri explains are at the heart of the invention.

“The locker has 72 doors and can serve up to 1 400 patients a month. We use the same door for different patients, where medication is loaded for one patient and once collected, an SMS is sent to different patient to collect [theirs] from the same box.”

Ten of these dispensing machines will be introduced at clinics across Ekurhuleni. It is expected to reach over 1 000 patients per machine every month and comes from a partnership between The Aurum Institute, the Department of Health and technology company, Technovera.

The Aurum Institute’s chief operating officer, Dr Dino Rech, says there are four boxes operating in Ekurhuleni, with plans to roll out 21 within a year.

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Patients on chronic medication can sometimes spend an entire day at a clinic waiting for medication.

Lizah Majola (73) is one of the first patients to collect medication from the Pelebox at Winnie Mandela Clinic.

“I’m very happy because before, I would wake up at 4:00am so I could be first in line to collect medication. I’d only leave the clinic around 1:00pm. Now I no longer have to wake up very early in the morning, and I can come at any time – even when the clinic is closed. The machine is very easy to use.”

Another patient, Makonko Mokwetli (28) says: “Now that there is an ‘ATM’ machine for medication, I can come to the clinic at a time that suits me. I am also able to come after work because I no longer have to wait for hours to get my medication. I think this box will also encourage patients who are lazy to wait in queues to collect their treatment when they should.

Rech says they are proud of the innovation. “We believe it’s one of many innovations where we are striving to put patients first and making sure that every South African gets access to decent quality health in a timeous manner.”

Ekurhuleni health MMC Nomadlozi Nkosi encourages the community to safeguard the Pelebox.

“We ask our communities to also help and protect this facility because it is here to help them. They must treat it as their own and safeguard it against vandalism.” – Health-e News

An edited version of this story was published in Health24