Wake Forest Baptist Health launches drone delivery service

Wake Forest Baptist Health in Winston-Salem, N.C., has launched a drone delivery service to transport medicines and personal protective equipment between its health system locations.

The program, which began in mid-July, is a partnership between Wake Forest and the United Parcel Service, as well as its subsidiary, UPS Flight Forward. It offers rapid delivery of time- and temperature-sensitive medical supplies and PPE. It also allows for less human interaction during deliveries, helping to combat the spread of COVID-19. 

UPS operates the drones from Wake Forest's central campus in Winston-Salem to the health system's other locations. Specially trained drone operators are on site to operate the drones and scan the airspace for traffic. 

Wake Forest currently has one drone it operates on two routes, but Conrad Emmerich, senior vice president of clinical/support services and supply chain, said it plans to expand the program to be a network of routes with multiple drones. 

"We believe that this program is a significant building block for really revolutionizing and improving the supply chain in the delivery of healthcare in the future," Mr. Emmerich told Becker's

The drones currently carry scheduled deliveries of infusion medicines, individually compounded drugs on demand and PPE, but Mr. Emmerich says Wake Forest is planning to expand to be able to deliver lab samples and tests via drone. 

"Our vision is that it will be a network of routes that can go between locations that we haven't historically gone to and from as easily as we can with drones," said Mr. Emmerich. 

The health system is making deliveries every business day and is able to do 10 to 12 deliveries per day with one drone.

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