Tech

Cleveland Clinic gets into drone prescription delivery

The health system plans to deliver specialty drugs and other prescriptions to patient homes via drone.
article cover

A rendering of a drone flying above a Cleveland Clinic building. Cleveland Clinic

· 3 min read

Navigate the healthcare industry

Healthcare Brew covers pharmaceutical developments, health startups, the latest tech, and how it impacts hospitals and providers to keep administrators and providers informed.

Patients in Cleveland could soon get their prescriptions flown directly to them.

Cleveland Clinic, one of the largest health systems in the US, announced on October 31 that it plans to begin delivering prescriptions via drone in 2025. The drones would first deliver specialty drugs and other prescriptions, but the health system said it plans to eventually expand drone delivery to “lab samples, prescription meals, medical and surgical supplies, and items for hospital-at-home services.”

“Not only are deliveries via drone more accurate and efficient, the technology we are utilizing is environmentally friendly,” Bill Peacock, the health system’s chief of operations, said in a statement. “The drones are small, electric, and use very little energy for deliveries.”

How would drone delivery work? A Cleveland Clinic pharmacy technician would be responsible for loading a prescription into a drone that could autonomously fly to a patient’s home and use a delivery droid to drop off the prescription at the residence. The delivery droid can safely place the package on small surfaces like a doorstep or a patio table, the health system said. Once delivered, the drone would fly itself back to its dock at Cleveland Clinic. Patients would also be able to track the whole process in real time, the health system said.

“This technology will help us achieve our goal to expand our pharmacy home delivery program and provide easier, quicker access to prescribed medications in our communities,” Geoff Gates, senior director of supply chain management at Cleveland Clinic, said in a statement.

The health system plans to install drone docks and loading portals at several Cleveland Clinic locations in Northeast Ohio. Zipline, which has been in the medical product delivery business since 2016, is set to supply the drones.

Before the drone delivery program can kick off, Cleveland Clinic needs to bring its plans into compliance with government safety requirements—a process the health system said it aims to start in 2024.

Amazon also recently announced a drone prescription delivery service in College Station, Texas. There, Amazon Pharmacy customers can get medications delivered within an hour of placing an order, at no additional delivery cost.

And Cleveland Clinic isn’t the first health system to test drone delivery. Intermountain Health of Salt Lake City is another system that’s been working with Zipline. That test program started in 2021, and the health system has continued to expand it, per the AP.

Navigate the healthcare industry

Healthcare Brew covers pharmaceutical developments, health startups, the latest tech, and how it impacts hospitals and providers to keep administrators and providers informed.