How a health system uses drones to deliver medications and medical supplies

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (NewsNation Now) — A health system in North Carolina is using drones to deliver medications and medical supplies to health care staff.

The hope is to expand the use of the drones to also help patients and surgeons.

More than a year ago, Wake Forest Baptist Health teamed up with UPS Flight Forward, which is a drone delivery service that was launched in July 2019 and became the first company to receive the Federal Aviation Administration’s full Part 135 Standard certification, NewsNation affiliate WGHP-TV reported.

“I think that this is the wave of the future,” said Conrad Emmerich, SVP of Clinical/Support Services and Supply Chain at Wake Forest Baptist Health. 

The drones are currently traveling along two routes with constant visual line of sight, delivering pharmaceuticals from the main campus to clinics where patients are waiting. Those medicines are being compounded on demand, shortening turnaround times. 

The drones are also being used to deliver medical supplies to help deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. Officials at the health system said they want to expand to also deliver lab samples. 

The hope is that sometime in the next 12 to 14 months, the distance the drones travel will increase. 

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Eventually, Wake Forest Baptist Health envisions being able to make drone deliveries directly to patients. 

“I think it’s endless what we can do with delivering products, delivering pharmaceuticals, delivering labs between our facilities and even further sometime in the future, to our patients at their homes,” Emmerich said. 

While it’s an investment now, the service may result in a reduction in health care costs in the future. 

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