July 14, 2024

Holistic Pulse

Healthcare is more important

Carilion continues innovating how drone technology could reshape the healthcare industry

3 min read

ROANOKE, Va. – Reshaping the way we interact with doctors and receive medical supplies; you may have noticed a drone flying above Carilion’s Roanoke campus over the past year. Carilion is using that drone to deliver medical supplies by air across sites on campus. It’s a partnership with DroneUp, America’s leading autonomous drone delivery company. They entered the second phase of its partnership with the installation of its industry-defining ground infrastructure, DBX, part of The DroneUp Ecosystem, to enable autonomous delivery across the medical campus. Carilion said the proof-of-concept installation, which went live on Monday, June 3, has been utilized and measured for the past two weeks.

During Carilion’s proof-of-concept installation, staff were able to send and retrieve drone-delivered items from the secured box at their convenience. The drone flew from a remote location and autonomously secured the package before flying to its destination. This deployment marks a significant advancement for inter-campus medical delivery, benefitting patient care through improvements to the speed and efficiency of both medical supply and prescription transport across a 10-mile zone.

“This project with Carilion signals an exciting and transformative chapter in autonomous medical delivery,” said Greg James, vice president of business development at DroneUp. “We’re confident that the DBX will help Carilion realize its goals of efficiency and accessibility while demonstrating to the larger medical community the improvements that last-mile logistics can have within campus settings and the surrounding community.”

DroneUp’s drones are roughly five feet in diameter and fly at around 200 feet in elevation.

The Future of Healthcare

Not only is this technology a major advancement for Carilion’s frontline workers and their patients, but it has major implications for the future.

Imagine a doctor sending a drone to your doorstep with the medicine you need.

While they aren’t there yet, this is the first round of this type of innovative drone testing in the healthcare industry.

It began a year ago. On Thursday, 10 News was there to see how drones are helping your doctors treat patients faster.

“When the frontline teams have to wait for supplies or wait for medication — it just delays their workflow and creates delays in providing the care,” said CarilionClinic’s Paul Davenport. He explained this drone testing can improve the speed of patient care by getting medical supplies place to place quicker.

“Lessoning that friction for our health care teams allows them to continue to do what we want them to do which is provide frontline patient care to our community,” Davenport said.

Carilion has a huge footprint in Southwest Virginia. Carilion has 7 hospitals serving around 20 counties and treats a million patients a year. Carilion’s LifeGuard service area is a 250-mile radius.

While Carilion and DroneUp is currently only testing 10 miles of their Roanoke campus, the implications of what drone service in the future could look like throughout the Carilion network is something partners are excited about.

“Our desire is to be able to do drone flights to all of our hospitals and throughout all our community and region,” said Davenport.

It’s a challenge Greg James with DroneUp said the company is excited to take on, however it will require more testing.

“I think the technology is there. DroneUp’s ability to execute that is there and I think the need is there. We need to put those puzzle pieces together to figure out how to get that done,” James said.

Beyond flying medicine and supplies from campus to campus… Carilion said this technology could be revolutionary for the expansion of telehealth and remote patient monitoring.

“The future could be delivery of medications to patients’ homes, home health nurses getting instant deliveries of things they need for patients in the home and then, of course, is always our desire,” Davenport said.

Copyright 2024 by WSLS 10 – All rights reserved.

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