Drones: the digital highways of tomorrow’s healthcare?


Posted on: April 17, 2018 by Hubert Lespinasse

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.

Already started

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.

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About Hubert Lespinasse

Solution Manager
Creator of realistic ideas Hubert's career is shared between project management, software architecture and geo-information expertise, for French and European industry leaders. He is currently exploring the industrialization of the use of civil UAVs as a continuation of his activities with CNES, Airbus DS GEO or Météo France ("a drone is a low-flying satellite"). He has been in charge of the creation and industrial follow-up of the SPOT satellite image catalogue since the early 2000s, representing 45 million scenes of the Earth covering 100 billion km². He has accompanied the realization of the ecosystem of associated geospatial services, precursors of the current digital transformation. His private aviation practice, first in gliding and then in light aviation, has familiarized him with the aerial world. Hubert graduated from Compiègne University of Technology.