By Vikram Singh
The landscape of the Indian healthcare sector is a unique one. On one hand, rapid digitization and technological transformations are redefining the urban healthcare space. On the other hand, large swathes of the rural populace live in hard-to-reach areas with no access to even primary healthcare facilities. According to the facts – 70 percent of India’s population is concentrated in the rural areas where only 3 percent of the country’s doctors live. These grim figures lay bare the immediate need to address the healthcare needs of the country’s rural population.
As technology continues to make breakthroughs in every sector, India can soon realize its dream of universal healthcare access. Unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly known as drones are giving new life to food delivery, agriculture, real estate, many other sectors and healthcare are no exception. The concept of on-demand drone delivery has become the country’s revolutionary innovation that can manifest the long-pending agenda of providing equal healthcare access to save and improve lives.
Endless transportation network
Transportation barriers are the leading cause of lack of healthcare access. Drones are successful in overcoming the connectivity challenges and they can positively impact the lives of millions living in remote and inaccessible areas. Since drones work on coordinates they can easily reach far-flung areas such as mountains, valleys and forests and make timely delivery of life-saving drugs, urgent supplies, medications etc. Areas that were earlier cut-off by road and weren’t feasible to reach by large helicopters and airplanes can now be reached, thereby extending the country’s transportation network in strengthening the country’s healthcare scenario.
Just like telemedicine is solving the problem of availability of doctors at remote locations, on-demand drone delivery resolves the issues of rapid sample collection and diagnosis. It comes as a boon to healthcare as drones can deliver samples to path labs in a few hours to reduce TAT from 3-5 days to 6-7 hours. Similarly, delivery of blood, vaccine, medicines, and anti-venoms in the first golden hour of the patient in remote locations that can be delivered in just a few hours by on-demand drone delivery.
Deliveries made through conventional logistics channels are time-consuming despite improved road connectivity. In emergencies where each second can alter the course of an individual’s life, one cannot rely on traditional transport systems. Drones on the other hand can deliver goods in a matter of minutes and hours thereby ensuring speedy delivery of critical supplies. These unmanned aerial vehicles are functioned to pick the order and deliver directly to the person in need thereby eliminating route restrictions, traffic or other logistic hindrances. Drones can transport healthcare items up to 20X faster in hilly terrains.
Reduced traffic congestion
India’s burgeoning population and increasing disposable income have led to a higher number of vehicles on road. More and more people are shifting from public transport to private vehicles and dependency on trucks and vans for delivery is leading to traffic congestions and bottlenecks. Drones are fit to combat traffic congestions and reduce road conjunctions by making medical deliveries through aerial routes and minimizing the number of delivery vehicles on road. According to the stats – up to 10% reduction in traffic can happen in urban cities if the last & mid mile deliveries are taken by air.
By leveraging the latest technologies, drones are being developed to make aerial deliveries affordable than conventional transportation modes. Unlike other fuel-run vehicles, drones are affordable, deliver much faster and in the most efficient way possible. Many companies are looking into drone technology because of its reduced shipping and operational costs.Drone deliveries at full scale will be 200% cheaper than ground deliveries. Further, it is forecasted that the size of the drone package delivery market is estimated to reach USD 8 billion by 2027.
The outbreak of coronavirus accustomed the world to a stay-at-home life with limited physical contact. Many businesses struggle to deliver goods following the six-feet away physical restraints. Drones, however, can serve as the perfect device to make no-contact deliveries considering they are unmanned and drop-off packages without any physical contact or socializing. They can help build more resilient supply chains and extended connectivity even in times of the ongoing Covid-19 crisis. With drones, the risk of transmission can be minimized and delivery of life-saving supplies can be expedited.
Countless people succumb to untimely death crying for a single drop of blood. Thousands of young lives that could be saved are lost each day because of delays in blood supply. India suffers from the largest blood shortage in the world. We live in a country where districts are deprived of blood banks. Despite a chronic shortage 6.5 lakh units of blood and its components are wasted because of not being transfused timely. Drones can overcome all these challenges and save countless lives by supplying blood and several other essential supplies within minutes when and where the need arises.
As we advance towards a world shaped by technology, healthcare should not remain aloof from its many perks and privileges. Access to basic healthcare facilities should not be restricted to those within reach and be made available to all, irrespective of geographic and demographic parameters. Drones can leapfrog the gaps in traditional transport routes in the healthcare space and connect the remote and far-flung corners of the world. With a myriad of benefits, drones not only revolutionize healthcare but also the logistics and transportation sector while taking a step closer to saving and improving the lives of a billion people.
(The author is CEO & Founder of TechEagle. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online).