State Watch

North Carolina sees its first on-demand health care deliveries by drone

A drone drops off its parcel.
Courtesy Zipline

North Carolina is getting its first long-range health care drone deliveries on Tuesday, with a new effort to further on-demand health care and transform the patient experience.

Three U.S. health care organizations — Novant Health, Magellan Rx Management and Cardinal Health — will work independently with drone delivery company Zipline to deliver products from a distribution center in Kannapolis, N.C., according to a press release sent to The Hill.

“We imagine a future in which goods are transported nearly instantly,” said Zipline founder and CEO Keller Rinaudo. “Together with Novant Health, Magellan Rx Management, and Cardinal Health, we are making it a reality. In the process, we are setting the bar for care and convenience with instant logistics.”

The automated delivery service allows organizations and patients to receive their deliveries in as little as 15 minutes and is capable of serving customers within a 7,800-square-mile area, the press release said.

Cardinal Health, a distributor of pharmaceuticals, medical and laboratory products, is delivering certain pharmaceutical products and medical supplies in an effort to mitigate the risk of inventory stock-outs, as well as reduce barriers for patients accessing medical necessities.

Magellan Rx Management says it is the first and only national pharmacy benefits manager utilizing drones to deliver prescription medications, which include specialty medications that treat chronic, complex conditions, directly to patients’ homes.

Novant Health, a network of almost 800 locations, first partnered with Zipline in 2020 to launch the country’s first emergency drone logistics operation for a pandemic response, making it the first hospital to be granted Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval for contactless delivery of personal protective equipment and critical medical supplies. The companies are now working together to expand the delivery of specialty medications to Novant Health patients.

“North Carolina is first in flight, and Zipline’s work is taking us to new heights,” said North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D). “This innovative partnership will increase access to health care for our community.”

The announcement comes after the FAA awarded Zipline Part 135 certification, which allows it to operate as a small air carrier in the U.S. It is only the fourth drone operator to receive this certification in the United States.

Tags drone delivery Health care delivery North Carolina
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