Drones: the digital highways of tomorrow’s healthcare?
Healthcare costs continue to rise; it is one of the biggest challenges of our lifetime. This is why many hospitals and governments around the world are looking for a value-based healthcare (VBHC) approach to minimize costs whilst maximizing value. To do this they are looking to emerging technologies to help. Drones are one of these technologies. They can drive value in the area of medical deliveries, reduce paper and administrative costs with an automated supply chain and free up doctor and nurse time.
Some transport operators have already carried out trials of drones in the health sector. They have been used to deliver medicines from mainland distribution centres out to islands that are hard to reach. Another example in Africa has seen drones being used to deliver blood and medical supplies to remote areas.
Moving beyond these early proofs of concept and making drones a reality in healthcare will require an overall vision combined with a reinvention of global logistics and supply chains and the support of information systems to ensure optimal efficiency. However, the potential benefits of drones are multiple.
Benefits of drones for patients
Given that the patient's primary need is to receive effective care, having healthcare products and equipment available in the right place at the right time, including in an emergency is essential. Being able to avoid road traffic speeds up the supply of equipment and improves planning and efficiency. The second benefit for patients is that an optimized and responsive logistics and supply chain helps to free-up healthcare staff's time for direct patient care.
Benefits of drones for hospitals
For hospitals, a key issue that drones can help with is the security and accuracy of medical processes. Automating the supply chain is particularly useful in the handling of medical supplies which need to be monitored or kept at certain temperatures. Another major issue is cost-effectiveness. Making logistics and supply chains more reliable, responsive and efficient means that hospitals can order stock when it is needed, ‘just in time’, rather than requiring expensive storage facilities on site.
For all these reasons, optimizing logistics – including through the use of drones – is an important objective for hospital groups. Logistics management for just one hospital can equate to around 60 million euros of budget every year. It therefore makes sense that reducing lead times and optimizing and managing inventories more efficiently will make a significant difference to the bottom line.