Autonomous delivery set to revolutionize how sensitive human samples are transported between medical facilities
Currently, hospitals around the world rely on human delivery personnel to deliver sensitive items like blood and tissue samples between hospitals, labs, and other medical facilities
Discussions of package deliveries tend to focus on efficiencies within the consumer realm as experts in the field cite reduced carbon footprints, and easier, faster, and more accurate deliveries and returns of everyday items.
Missing from that discussion, until now is how the healthcare industry will benefit. "We are working with a major health care provider to pilot delivery of blood samples from the hospital to the lab," said Dronedek Founder and Chief Executive Officer Dan O'Toole in a recent press release issued by the company. "We are confident this work will do more than increase efficiencies, it will increase security throughout medical campuses while also bettering the patient experience."
Currently, hospitals around the world rely on human delivery personnel to deliver sensitive items like blood and tissue samples between hospitals, labs, and other medical facilities. This process has inherent delays as medical professionals who obtain samples that need laboratory examination have to wait for humans to transport the specimens from one facility to another. Additionally, those deliveries pose security risks as trusted delivery men and women could be impersonated by someone meaning to do harm. Also, humans often, and without meaning to, bring in germs and contamination to healthcare facilities.
"These items can be easily delivered via drone to a Dronedek security mailbox where they can remain in a climate-controlled, secure environment until an autonomous device comes to retrieve them," O'Toole explained. "That autonomous device can then deliver the samples to where they need to be, and results can be digitally delivered. Removing the human component takes a lot of risk out of the process."
Parveen Chand, former COO of a large academic medical center, an early advisor to Dronedek, and current executive with Ascension, one of the nation's largest healthcare systems, said he is excited at the prospect of what autonomous delivery can mean to the healthcare industry.
"Coupled with drone delivery, secure and temperature-controlled storage like the patented Dronedek system, and autonomous or automated delivery technology, health systems, and hospitals now have the ability to reduce expenses along the supply chain and improve efficiency," he said. "These technologies can reduce the transmission risk of pathogens and can work around the clock, offering a more reliable delivery method. Any chance we can get to improve our processes and make them more secure while enhancing turn-around times and increasing throughput we should explore."
O'Toole declined to identify the health care provider Dronedek is working with but said he expects to offer a demonstration soon. And not far behind that, he says, is the routine use of autonomous devices. "The future of logistics in general is autonomous," he said. "Consumers want faster, cheaper, more accurate delivery, and we'll certainly give them that, but these applications where lives are on the line, well, it's just humbling to be a small part in that."
Pilots are underway in other countries like Belgium where hospitals in August began testing drones to save time delivering human tissue samples across city centers, between patients on the operating table, and in medical labs.