The primary goal is to ensure prompt delivery of medications to pharmacies and clinics in remote regions while minimising the potential risks associated with temperature fluctuations that could affect cold chain products.
Cipla, an Indian pharmaceutical company, has initiated drone-based delivery of critical medicines to hospitals and pharmacies in Himachal Pradesh, including cardiac, respiratory, and essential chronic therapies. This initiative is in collaboration with Skye Air Mobility, a Gurugram-based drone delivery startup.
The primary objective is to ensure the timely delivery of medicines to chemists and clinics in remote areas while mitigating the risk of compromising cold chain products due to temperature fluctuations.
"As we accelerate our digital agenda across all functions, implementing drone-powered distribution enhances our supply chain resilience, strengthens connections with channel partners, helps us stay future-ready and maintain reliable, prompt delivery of our trusted high-quality drugs to stockists and patients in the region," Cipla's Global Supply Chain Head, Swapn Malpani, said.
The company has already completed multiple drone deliveries in Himachal Pradesh, covering distances of approximately 50 km in less than 25 minutes. This achievement is particularly vital in the face of adverse weather conditions that often disrupt conventional transportation routes in the state.
The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) released guidelines for the drone delivery of pharmaceutical products in the previous year. This move toward embracing drone technology gained momentum when ICMR conducted a pilot project for delivering COVID-19 vaccines in Manipur and Nagaland using drones in October 2021.
Numerous players in the diagnostic and technology sectors have been exploring the potential of drones to deliver medicines and collect samples from remote areas.
Tata 1mg, a digital healthcare firm, commenced drone deliveries of diagnostic samples and medications in Dehradun toward the end of 2022. Similarly, SRL Diagnostics (now Agilus Diagnostics) partnered with Skye Air Mobility in April of the same year to focus on drone delivery for collecting samples and transporting them to labs in Gurugram and Mumbai.
Several tech startups, including TechEagle, have collaborated with state governments like Himachal Pradesh to deliver medicines and vaccines in hard-to-reach areas, particularly during harsh winter conditions.
In the past year, TechEagle initiated the delivery of medicines from primary health centres (PHCs) to sub-centres in Himachal Pradesh's Kullu district using drones.
Recently, TechEagle also partnered with AIIMS Jodhpur to deliver vital medical supplies to the tribal communities of Sirohi, Rajasthan, utilising TechEagle's advanced e-VTOL Drone, Vertiplane X3. These essential supplies include medicines, vaccines, and blood. Further, the system enables easy transportation of blood and sputum samples for diagnostic evaluation, improving overall healthcare delivery.
While the use of drones in healthcare delivery is poised to gain momentum, industry insiders acknowledge the potential for errors. Recent incidents, such as a drone dropping blood samples collected from patients on metro tracks in Delhi, highlight the need for stringent safety measures and continuous improvement.
Nevertheless, the consensus remains positive, with technology playing a pivotal role in expediting the delivery of essential medicines and vaccines to remote and challenging terrains, ultimately improving healthcare accessibility for underserved communities.
The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) is an executive organization dedicated to serving senior digital health leaders. CHIME includes more than 5,000 members in 56 countries and two US territories and partners with over 150 healthcare IT businesses and professional services firms. CHIME enables its members and business partners to collaborate, exchange ideas, develop professionally and advocate the effective use of information management to improve the health and care throughout the communities they serve. CHIME's members are chief information officers (CIOs), chief medical information officers (CMIOs), chief nursing information officers (CNIOs), chief innovation officers (CIOs), chief digital officers (CDOs), and other senior healthcare leaders. The CHIME India Chapter became the first international chapter outside North America in 2016 and is now a community of over 70+ members in India. For more information, please visit www.chimecentral.org