NHS to scale up the delivery of critical medical supplies using drones from Apian and Zipline

NHS to scale up the delivery of critical medical supplies using drones from Apian and Zipline
Image Credit: Zipline International

Apian and Zipline Collaborate to Expand NHS Drone Delivery Initiative

UK-based healthcare logistics company, Apian, is set to join forces with Zipline, the world’s largest autonomous instant delivery company, to expand an NHS initiative that delivers medical supplies to hospitals, GPs, and care homes using electric, autonomous drones. This groundbreaking partnership, scheduled to launch in the autumn of 2024, will initially collaborate with Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, generating job opportunities in the region.

The innovative Zipline delivery system, utilized by major companies such as Cleveland Clinic, Pfizer, and Walmart, aims to revolutionize the healthcare supply chain. By ensuring timely availability of medical devices and prescriptions, the system seeks to enhance the efficiency of medical facilities, preventing disruptions and reducing wait times for patients.

This novel service will introduce on-demand delivery of prescriptions, wound care, and other essential medical products, potentially minimizing the number of canceled procedures in the long run. Sir James Mackey, CEO of Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, expressed enthusiasm, stating, “This expansion with Zipline and Apian is an exciting next step as we strive to improve services for the hundreds of thousands of patients we serve. We believe this innovative technology could be used to improve healthcare outcomes, save money and eliminate supply chain complexities, and we’re keen to get started.”

Zipline plans to centralize the inventory of frequently ordered medical products, such as prescription medicines and wound care items, delivering them swiftly to various health facilities. The initial focus will include Hexham General Hospital, Wansbeck General Hospital, Haltwhistle War Memorial Hospital, and other regional health facilities. The partnership aims to serve over 30 GP, care, and health facilities across the region, reducing reliance on expensive last-minute logistics.

Dr. Christopher Law, Medical Director and Co-Founder of Apian, emphasized the potential benefits of on-demand delivery in healthcare, saying, “I’ve seen first hand the impact that running out of supplies can have on patient health outcomes.”

“Healthcare should benefit from on-demand delivery, much like consumers now do in their personal lives. Delivering critical products with drones, where and when they’re most needed, will improve supply chain efficiency and give doctors, nurses and clinicians more time to focus on the most important thing — their patients,” said Dr. Christopher Law, Medical Director and Co-Founder of Apian.

Integration of Healthcare and Aviation by Apian

Apian, founded by former NHS doctors, integrates healthcare and aviation to create an automated, on-demand delivery system. Keller Rinaudo Cliffton, CEO and Co-Founder of Zipline, highlighted the environmental and cost benefits of transitioning from traditional delivery methods to drone-based solutions. Zipline, known for its rapid and efficient deliveries, will establish a hub near the Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital in Cramlington, Northumberland.

“Today 3,000 pound gas vehicles driven by humans are used to deliver three pound packages billions of times per year. It’s expensive, slow and bad for the environment,” said Keller Rinaudo Cliffton, CEO and Co-Founder of Zipline. “This decision means that the NHS can start to transition delivery to solutions that are ten times as fast, less expensive, and zero emission. This service will be delivered at a fraction of the cost of the existing solution, and will help drive financial savings to the NHS in the longer term.”

Zipline’s fleet of fully autonomous aircraft, known as Zips, utilizes advanced technologies, including artificial intelligence, to conduct deliveries quietly and autonomously. These Zips can cover up to 130 miles roundtrip in various weather conditions, releasing packages with parachutes to a hospital’s outdoor area. Zipline’s track record includes flying over 60 million commercial miles and delivering millions of medical products worldwide, including more than 13 million vaccine doses. Independent studies from reputable institutions such as the University of Pennsylvania and The Lancet have attested to the life-saving impact of the Zipline delivery system, reducing blood wastage and minimizing the likelihood of medical product shortages.

Zipline’s Mission to Revolutionize Healthcare Logistics in Northumbria and Beyond

The expansion of Zipline’s operations to Northumbria aligns with its mission to provide efficient, cost-effective, and environmentally friendly delivery solutions. The company, which currently completes a delivery every 70 seconds, will contribute to the reduction of delivery costs and emissions associated with conventional transportation methods.

In addition to the immediate benefits for Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, the partnership is poised to have broader implications for the National Health Service (NHS) and healthcare delivery across the UK. The integration of drone technology in medical supply chains has the potential to transform healthcare logistics on a national scale, enhancing accessibility, reducing costs, and improving patient outcomes.

The strategic placement of Zipline’s hub in Cramlington signifies a commitment to establishing a reliable and centralized distribution network. The autonomous Zips, equipped with redundant safety systems and supervised by trained aviation personnel, promise secure and timely deliveries, even in adverse weather conditions.

The partnership between Apian, Zipline, and the NHS not only represents a technological leap in healthcare logistics but also underscores the role of innovation in addressing critical challenges within the healthcare sector. As the NHS, the largest employer in Europe, embraces cutting-edge solutions, this collaboration has the potential to set a precedent for similar initiatives globally.

The alliance between Apian, Zipline, and Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust heralds a new era in healthcare delivery. The integration of drone technology is poised to streamline supply chains, enhance efficiency, and ultimately improve patient care. As the program takes flight in the autumn of 2024, the collaborative efforts of these entities hold the promise of revolutionizing healthcare logistics, not only in Northumbria but potentially across the entire UK healthcare system.

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Source(s): Northumberland Gazette; sUAS News

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