One of the world’s top pharmaceutical companies, Merck, is piloting drones to deliver vaccines to patients faster. They are working with Volansi, a drone technology logistics company, in making this project possible.
According to the Fierce Healthcare website, the drone delivery system of Volansi will deliver cold chain medicines from the Wilson, North Carolina manufacturing site of Merck to Healthplex – Wilson, a Vidant Health clinic.
That will be the first phase of the project to study what role the drone technology will hold in the future of delivering medicines and in improving the healthcare supply chain, both Merck and Volansi said.
Delivering Medicines Via Drones
The delivery of medicines and vaccines via autonomous drones could reduce the time it takes to reach the patient in need. Not only that, but it will also help address the logistical and infrastructure barriers which prevent high-quality preventive care.
For instance, millions of people across 29 counties in North Carolina’s rural environment can immediately access care using this novel logistics technology as many of the residents live miles away from the nearest pharmacy or clinic.
CEO and co-founder of Volansi Hannan Parvizian rote in a blog post about their partnership with Merck that those suffering chronic medical conditions would have easy access to the medicine supply chain that could be a matter of life or death for them.
Both companies said that the drones’ initial flights resulted in delivering the temperature-controlled medicines within the United States.
Senior vice president for global supply chain management at Merck, Craig Kennedy, said that Merck is open to using novel technologies to explore how to serve people better. This partnership with Volansi helps them explore new innovative delivery options that complement their existing supply capabilities.
“There’s now an accelerated need for rapid advancements in supply chain technology, especially in healthcare. Drone delivery is one solution to getting critical supplies where they are needed, at the moment they are needed most,” Parvizian said.
But Merck was not the first to use autonomous drones in delivering medicines. In 2019, WakeMed Health & Hospitals announced a partnership with UPS to deliver medicines via drones in their North Carolina campus, and other hospitals had launched their drone programs.
Moreover, Walgreens was the first pharmacy retailer to test drone delivery in partnership with Alphabet’s Wing Aviation. Likewise, CVS Health also partnered with UPS to test several applications of drone delivery.
In September, Walmart partnered with Quest Diagnostics and announced piloting drone delivery of home sample collection kits for COVID-19.
The drone delivery system is unchartered territory, and even if many companies have delved deeper into this industry over the past ten years, it has yet to become a fully streamlined field as it faces many challenges. When using this new technology, there is a lot to consider, such as transportation logistics, storage, and coordination between parties.
But drone delivery has a lot of potential in addressing healthcare issues, according to Forbes. Indeed, COVID-19 is an eye-opener across governments and healthcare systems to many operational challenges in healthcare systems.
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