SA’s tight regulatory environment poses a challenge to the roll out of new health technology, putting a damper on initiatives that could provide cheaper care to more people, a senior government official conceded on Tuesday. It took more than 18 months for the health department to obtain approval from the SA Pharmacy Council for its medicine-dispensing ATMs, the health department’s deputy director-general for National Health Insurance (NHI) Anban Pillay told a discussion hosted by Business Day and private hospital group Life Healthcare. “SA has a deficit of pharmacists, but the Pharmacy Council saw it as a threat to jobs,” he said. Gauteng and NGO Right to Care launched an ATM “pharmacy” that provides medication to patients with chronic illness in less than three minutes last year, in an effort to reduce congestion in public health facilities. Panelists highlighted the potential of new technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI)-assisted diagnosis and robotics, to improve acce...

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