Medicine from the Sky, a drone-based method of providing healthcare to the masses

 NEW DELHI:

Apollo Hospital’s Healthnet Global, World Economic Forum, the government of Telangana and NITI Aayog has come up with an insight report on ‘Medicine from the Sky’, a drone-based method of taking healthcare to the masses. The report provides a comprehensive look at the Medicine from the Sky project whereby, in the first scheme of its kind, vaccines were delivered beyond the visual line of sight (BVLOS) using drones.

With the recent completion of the country’s first organized medical drone-delivery programme known as “Medicine from the Sky” which delivered a range of medical products over a long range, it is quite clear that such unmanned aerial vehicles can be a force multiplier for existing healthcare infrastructure in the country. On average, the drones used in the exercise flew at a height of 300 feet (90m) carrying an average weight of 2.3 kg, which included payload boxes, supplies and coolants at an average temperature of 5°C. Drones can not only be an enabler for last mile delivery but also for the middle mile – medical transit between 2 hubs or even on a well-established campus.

However, to support drone-assisted medical aid delivery in the healthcare system, regulations, technology advancements and awareness must go hand-in-hand. Also, procuring drone services for medical deliveries requires knowledge-based insights into local scenarios which best provided by drone original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and service providers. Thus, the expansion of drones in healthcare is a multistakeholder subject and during its implementation, nobody should be left behind.

Apollo Hospitals has been a forerunner when it comes to the use of drone technology with advanced capabilities including AI in responding to disaster and emergencies. Apollo Hospitals had already demonstrated the use of drones as part of its emergency medical services in 2018. For testing, an accident situation was simulated, and a drone had flown to the site and seamlessly integrated with the disaster response protocols. Audio-video communication capability enabled the drone top help in cardiopulmonary resuscitation to first responders. In the “medicine from the Sky” project, a government area hospital was chosen as the take-off site and various PHCs and sub-centers as the landing sites. Of the 8 activated health facilities in the areas (6 PHCs and 2 SCs), the area hospital identified as the take-off site for trials was not equipped with a cold-chain facility. This was also enabled by Apollo Hospitals.

As clinical partners in the exercise, *Apollo Hospital’s Joint Managing Director Dr. Sangita Reddy stressed on the organisation’s mission was “to enable access to quality healthcare services globally with the use of cutting-edge technology.” Apollo has been exploring the use of drones for improving medical care since 2018 and has advocated the greater adoption of drone technology and policies surrounding the same to save lives across the country.* “Medicine from the Sky” happens to be one of our distinguished projects as far as innovative use of technology in healthcare is concerned and we were privileged to be the clinical partner in the initiative and share our healthcare experiences.

We look forward to continuing working with WEF (World Economic Forum), the government of Telangana and other states across the country in this project which I am sure would be the inception of a new age in enhancing the healthcare supply chain” she added.

“Telangana has been a torchbearer for the fourth industrial revolution” said KT Rama Rao, Minister for Municipal Administration & Urban Development, Industries & Commerce, and Information

Technology of Telangana. “Using drones to successfully enable a case for touching the lives of citizens in remote and inaccessible areas is a highlight that demonstrates how drones can be integrated into the healthcare ecosystem. After Telangana, several other states have replicated the medical delivery use case”, he added highlighting how the Medicine from the Sky program sparked a delivery revolution in the region.

Vikram Thaploo, CEO of Apollo Hospital’s HealthNet Global said “Drones can make the delivery of essential medicines, vaccines and other essential supplies especially to remote areas, faster and more accessible. Transportation barriers happen to be the leading cause behind lack of healthcare access. Drones can successfully overcome the connectivity issues and positively impact the lives of millions living in remote and inaccessible areas. Areas that were previously cut-off by road and difficult to reach by large airplanes and helicopters can now be easily reached, thereby extending

India’s transportation network in strengthening the country’s healthcare scenario. Just like telehealth solves the problem of unavailability of doctors at remote locations, drone delivery resolves the issues of rapid sample collection, medical supplies delivery, diagnosis and much more.”

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