Drones to Deliver Speedy, Reliable Healthcare in Not-So-Distant Future

From rapid delivery of medications and supplies to remote locations, to gathering data in crisis situations and more, drones are poised to impact healthcare.>

Kevin Kelly

The healthcare industry is under pressure to modernize and update just about every area of its operations, from the delivery of new treatment protocols to records management to insurance coverage for every American.

We’ve heard much buzz recently about drones — this technology innovation will play a major role in modernizing the American healthcare industry in ways that we are just starting to understand.

Put simply, through the combination of high-speed capabilities and the latest telecommunication technology, drones have the capacity to literally help save lives. Drones are already being used for the rapid delivery of vaccines, medications and supplies to remote locations. Companies such as Matternet, a smart drone transportation manufacturer, are already testing delivery methods overseas.

In 2012, Matternet conducted its first field trials in Haiti by successfully delivering small packages to a camp devastated by the 2010 earthquake that brought the country to its knees.

Related: Drones to Take Off at InfoComm 2015

According to Quartz, the World Health Organization and the government of Bhutan teamed up with Matternet this year to build a network of low-cost quadcopters to connect the country’s main hospitals with rural communities. With only 0.3 physicians per 1,000 people, health care is a serious problem for the Bhutanese population.

Meanwhile, Matternet’s quadcopters can carry loads of up to four pounds across 20 kilometers at a time, and the company can track them in realtime. This is just one example where drones can be used to deliver “speedy” health care.

Drones can also be used in individual emergencies. In the Netherlands, Alec Momont, an engineering student at TU Delft in Delft, designed an “ambulance drone” specifically developed to combat the high mortality rate of cardiac arrest victims. The “ambulance drone” is capable of traveling at speeds up to 60 mph, according to Slate, and is fully equipped with an on-board camera, which allows a remote operator to talk to people and provide emergency instructions.

Related Swag: CI Giving Away Drone at InfoComm

Momont estimates that a drone’s speedy response time and on-scene assistance capabilities could increase cardiac arrest survival rates to more than 80 percent. While the FAA has not yet extensively tested medical drone use in the United States, they are in the process of developing standards and guidelines for the safe and legal use of drones in commercial applications, in ways that do not violate an individual’s right to privacy.

Make no mistake about it; drones have the ability to serve as life-saving and life-giving resources for a healthcare industry increasingly challenged to find new, safe, and cost-effective ways to deliver much needed medicine to remote locations, gather data needed to assist medical personnel in an unfolding crisis, and provide information to an individual trying to assist someone in need.

Commercial integrators can start examining now how the technology may play a part in their future.