Drones have been pioneered and used in the military, however, only recently non-military drones have been introduced. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought into focus the potential value of drones in moving medical supplies. With the onset of social distancing policies and quarantine regulations, the efficiency of traditional logistics systems has been limited. Several companies have recently accelerated their development in this domain, conducting pilot projects at pace, paving the way for the future of the medical logistics supply chain. In this review, we examine both narrative and grey literature for in and out of hospital settings, in order to describe the current state of drone technology in healthcare around the world and some of the most cutting-edge examples of how drones can benefits patients, clinicians and the wider public. We investigate the economic viability and barriers to adopting drones at scale which include regulatory hurdles, public perception and safety of drone technologies, and propose how to overcome these challenges. Further work should look at quantifying the impact and outcomes of how such a service could impact the health outcomes of patients and clinical efficiency. This review aims to equip the National Health Service and more broadly other healthcare systems around the world with the tools to embrace and implement this novel and upcoming technology.
- Delivery of Health Care
- Health Care Economics and Organizations
- Health Care Quality, Access, and Evaluation
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Contributors CTL conceived the idea and wrote the main literature review. CM carried out the literature review search and reviewed the manuscript. HJ and MJ contributed to the final review of the manuscript. TY supervised this project.
Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
Competing interests CTL and HJ are medical doctors and cofounders of Apian—a healthcare drone startup to deliver faster, smarter and cleaner healthcare. Being in both the healthcare and drone industry provide us with a good insight into where drone technology is and where it’s heading towards. Apian is first and foremost a healthcare company, and are drone operator neutral with the absolute focus on improving health outcomes.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.