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Drones - Are they the future of healthcare?

By Rosie Hewitt
Rehabilitation and Delegated Claims Manager

Drones have already been trialed in the provision of healthcare as they have been used to deliver food aid and medical supplies to areas hit by disaster as well as remote, often inaccessible areas, such as in Bhutan. Their unique ability to rapidly deliver vaccines, medications and supplies right to the heart of a disaster area could potentially quell outbreaks of life-threatening communicable diseases that often kill many more people than the disasters themselves. Theoretically drones can be used to deliver medications to patients with life threatening diseases, like Ebola, within minutes, therefore significantly reducing the risk of the risk of death to those affected.

Currently being able to carry a weight load of up to five pounds, drones are able to deliver medicines, bandages or even a defibrillator, to anywhere they might be required much faster than any conventional method of transport such as by road or foot. In Holland a prototype ambulance drone equipped with a defibrillator for heart attack incidents is already being trialed and the suggestion is that this could dramatically increase survival rates.

Yet it’s not stopping there!

What more can they do?

It is envisaged that drones could eventually be used to deliver medications and supplies to patients in their own home, with drone technology therefore making it potentially easier and safer to provide home–based care.  

This technology may allow more people in nursing homes to receive care at home for  longer periods of time, which could assist in increasing  the independence of the growing elderly population.  A drone could be used to keep tabs on a person living at home with dementia or deliver a meal to someone who cannot prepare their own meals.

What could they do in the future?

According to WHO (World Health Organization), 45.8 percent of Member States have less than one physician per 1,000 people.  This statistic shows how useful drones could potentially be in healthcare delivery as part of the idea is to relieve doctors of certain smaller duties, so they can focus on more complex ones.

There must be drawbacks?

With any new way of doing things, there are often reservations .  They key one regarding drones being that they are also commonly used as spying devices and are seen to impinge on people’s privacy.  Reliability and scalability is also an issue, as well as the price tag (one drone can cost several thousand pounds). One thing is certain however, once these issues are worked through, the use of drones in Western healthcare will almost certainly happen.