Eight communities in remote towns of Costa Rica are set to receive drugs via pilotless aerial vehicles (drones) starting from 2017, thanks to a new programme implemente by the government’s public health authority.
The programme will link basic health centers in these remote communities with distribution points operated by the Costa Rican Social Security Fund (CCSS).
The use of drones is expect to reduce the waiting time for receiving drugs to 45 minutes after an order is place. Currently, patients in remote areas wait anywhere from several hours to three days to receive the medicine.
“We’re talking about patients that need to travel for hours in difficult conditions to reach medical care. They live in adverse economic conditions and can’t travel repeatedly”, says Esteban Vega, the national coordinator of pharmaceutical services for the CCSS.
The CCSS currently uses all-terrain vehicles, motorcycles or boats to deliver medicines in remote communities. But being so isolate increases the waiting time for supplies to arrive, particularly in indigenous areas of the western Talamanca mountain range.
In September this year the Costa Rican social security authority employed the firm Zipline. Which specialises in delivering medical products with a drone system. The company is expect to make flight plans and test flights in the next six months.
Each month the programme hopes to deliver 13,200 medical packages using this technology with a cost close to US $26.000.
To ensure that drugs are use appropriately, requests will be made by a CCSS-affiliate doctor in the community. A worker will then prepare the package at a medical center nearby. And the 10kg drone will deliver it to its destination. A new system pilote since May this year. Which allows health professionals to request medicines digitally.
“Electronic prescriptions are key for this [drone delivery plan] to work”, Vega said.
The outcome of this first drug-delivery project will determine whether. It can be able in other parts of the country, or in emergencies.