Speedy medicine dispensing robot to give SA healthcare a shot in the arm

2019-02-27 05:19
South African healthcare is set for an efficiency boost with a new medicine dispensing robot that will deliver medication in a more convenient and effective way. (Right ePharmacy)

South African healthcare is set for an efficiency boost with a new medicine dispensing robot that will deliver medication in a more convenient and effective way. (Right ePharmacy)

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South African healthcare is set for an efficiency boost with a new medicine dispensing robot that will deliver medication in a more convenient and effective way.

The robot, built in partnership with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and Right ePharmacy, is being showcased at the Intelligent Manufacturing Systems ManuVation 4.0 Workshop in Pretoria.

Right ePharmacy specialises in the design of pharmaceutical products. Security was a key consideration of the design of the AVA34 robot.

"We started the design and the build of the robot with this in mind. Whereas available robots in the market identify (scan) products during loading, albeit none of them [are] able to dispense medicine bags, the AVA robot is double confirming all dispenses (pickings)," Andre van Biljon, chief technology officer and innovator at Right ePharmacy told News24.

Fast dispensing

The robot features an ability to scan images and barcodes to make sure the pick is correct.

"If in doubt, the item will be discarded and not dispensed to the patient. Competitor products do not do this, without which perfect accuracy during dispensing cannot be guaranteed," Van Biljon added.

It features an ability to dispense medication in medicine bags and it can also apply labels and dosage labels within six seconds per item - or 550 sachets per hour.

The dosage labels printed are discarded almost immediately and the robot stores no patient information.

Right ePharmacy robot.

The dispensing head of the robot is shown. (Right ePharmacy)

AVA34 will mainly be used to dispense chronic medication where medicines in medicine bags or sachets are supplied to patients, said Van Biljon.

"In South Africa, this is at least 30% the case of typical items on chronic medication scripts, ie 30% line items on typical chronic scripts are packaged in sachets or medicine bags. This is a significant volume and could be as much as 40 million bags per month for South Africa."

He said that in the rest of Africa, up to 80% of line items supplied to chronic patients could be in a sachet form.

The AVA34 prototype was completed in December 2018 and Right ePharmacy is now focused on a manufacturing process.

"We have completed a working prototype by the end of 2018 and started to exhibit the unit. Out next step is the digitisation of the design followed by its production planning," Van Biljon said.

High capacity use

AVA34 is not the first of its kind, but is designed for high capacity use unlike, for example, the Evondos E300 machine which is designed for home use.

The cost of the AVA34 will be determined once the machine is in production, Van Biljon added.

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Read more on:    csir  |  technology  |  good news  |  healthcare  |  robotics
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