Apian, Zipline to expand NHS drone delivery of medical supplies

Service to provide timely access to prescriptions, wound care and medical products through an on-demand delivery service

Apian, Zipline to expand NHS drone delivery of medical supplies
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Apian, a U.K. based healthcare logistics company, is partnering with Zipline to significantly expand a NHS programme delivering medical supplies to hospitals, GPs and care homes, using electric, autonomous drones.

The programme will roll out with Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust by the autumn of 2024, creating local job opportunities in the region, says a release from Zipline.

"Used by companies like Cleveland Clinic, Pfizer and Walmart, the Zipline delivery system will create a more efficient supply chain, ensuring facilities have the necessary medical devices and prescriptions in-stock to serve their patients.

"This new service will provide timely access to prescriptions, wound care and other frequently needed medical products through an on-demand delivery service. In the long term, this could allow healthcare providers to reduce the number of cancelled procedures and decrease wait times."

James Mackey, Chief Executive Officer, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust says: “This expansion with Zipline and Apian is an exciting next step as we strive to improve services for the hundreds of thousands of patients we serve. We believe this innovative technology could be used to improve healthcare outcomes, save money and eliminate supply chain complexities, and we're keen to get started."

Zipline will centralise the inventory of frequently ordered products such as prescription medicines, wound care products and joint replacement implants, and will deliver them to Hexham General Hospital, Wansbeck General Hospital, Haltwhistle War Memorial Hospital and regional health facilities within minutes of getting the order, the release added. "Ultimately, Zipline, Apian and the NHS will serve more than 30 GP, care and health facilities across the region, reducing the health system’s reliance on expensive last-minute logistics to move products between facilities when needed. Over time, the organisations expect to grow their operations and deliver to significantly more health facilities."

Christopher Law, Medical Director and Co-Founder, Apian says: “I’ve seen first hand the impact that running out of supplies can have on patient health outcomes. "Healthcare should benefit from on-demand delivery, much like consumers now do in their personal lives. Delivering critical products with drones, where and when they’re most needed, will improve supply chain efficiency and give doctors, nurses and clinicians more time to focus on the most important thing — their patients.”

Keller Rinaudo Cliffton, CEO and Co-Founder, Zipline adds: "“Today 3,000 pound gas vehicles driven by humans are used to deliver three pound packages billions of times per year. It’s expensive, slow and bad for the environment. This decision means that the NHS can start to transition delivery to solutions that are ten times as fast, less expensive, and zero emission. This service will be delivered at a fraction of the cost of the existing solution, and will help drive financial savings to the NHS in the longer term."

Apian, which was co-founded by a team of former NHS doctors, has built a platform which integrates both healthcare and aviation, creating a fully automated, on-demand delivery system.

Zipline's fleet of fixed-wing, fully autonomous aircraft (Zips) use robust technologies including artificial intelligence to fly quietly and autonomously. Zips can travel up to 130 miles roundtrip in almost any weather condition, and release packages with parachutes that float down to a hospital’s outdoor area, the release added.

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