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Drone use in health care expanding

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Posted at 11:46 AM, Dec 07, 2022

Susan Stone helps manage her 87-year-old mother’s medications. She says she takes as many as fifteen different medicines a month.

“There are times when I can’t be here, and if she runs out and if there’s one that she needs for that day, she could get it immediately," Stone said.

Stone is talking about the drone that could eventually deliver her mother’s medications in minutes.

Zipline, a logistics and delivery system, has partnered with InterMountain Healthcare to deliver prescriptions and medical products directly to people’s homes in the Salt Lake Valley area of Utah.

This isn’t a first-of-its-kind partnership in the U.S. Zipline has partnered with other health systems in North Carolina. Drones helped move medications and kept pharmacies stocked and PPE flowing during the height of the pandemic.

The company also works with Walmart near its Arkansas headquarters, delivering over-the-counter medications and other essential items. Soon it will expand work in Washington State to include flying things like lab samples and test kits in-between medical facilities.

Outside of the U.S., drone use in health care is proving even more critical. Drones deliver blood and COVID-19 vaccines in parts of Africa, Australia, and Asia. In Sweden, a man having a heart attack was saved after a drone delivered a defibrillator in just three minutes.

Experts in drone use say reaching more people in the U.S. will come down to regulatory hurdles the FAA currently has in place, like maintaining a visual line of signs with aircraft.

There also needs to be improved understanding and acceptance by the public.