Doctors Test Drones to Speed Up Delivery of Lab Tests

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Three years ago, Geoff Baird bought a drone. The Seattle dad and hobby plane enthusiast used the 2.5-pound quadcopter to photograph the Hawaiian coastline and film his son’s soccer and baseball games.

But his big hope is that drones will soon fly tubes of blood and other specimens to Harborview Medical Center, where he works as a clinical pathologist running the hospital’s chemistry and toxicology labs. In the near future, Baird and others say, drones could transform health care — not only in rural areas by bringing critical supplies into hard-to-reach places, but also in crowded cities where hospitals pay hefty fees to get medical samples across town during rush hour. By providing a faster, cheaper way to move test specimens, drones could speed diagnoses and save lives. “It’s super exciting to me,” Baird says.

The technology seems to be there. Drones are delivering pizza in New Zealand and taking condoms to parts of Ghana that lack reliable roads or access to birth control. Tech giants and big retailers, including Amazon and Wal-Mart, are testing drones fordeliveries and pickups.

However, “blood specimens are not like a book or a shoe,” Timothy Amukele, an assistant professor of pathology at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, said in a TED talk earlier this year. No one knew whether bumpy flights would hurt cells or otherwise make biological samples unsuitable for lab tests.

Source: NPR (link opens in a new window)

Health Care, Technology
healthcare technology