Novant Health Inc. has formed a health-care collaboration that offers long-range drone deliveries in North Carolina from a distribution center in Kannapolis.
The collaboration is with Cardinal Health and Magellan Rx Management that became operational with global logistics delivery company Zipline in June.
“North Carolina is first in flight, and Zipline’s work is taking us to new heights,” Gov. Roy Cooper said in a statement. Cooper toured the Zipline facility in June. “This innovative partnership will increase access to health care for our community.”
Zipline designs, manufactures and operates the world’s largest automated on-demand delivery service, covering a 7,800-square-mile area. Customers can receive deliveries in as little as 15 minutes.
Commercial deliveries began June 22, just five days after the Federal Aviation Administration awarded Zipline a Part 135 certification on June 17.
Zipline is just the fourth drone operator ever to receive this certification in the United States.
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Zipline said the service offers a 98% reduction in delivery emissions compared with standard delivery options and “creates a more personalized and faster customer experience.”
“Each health-care organization will utilize Zipline’s service in a different way to improve care, implement on-demand delivery, and drive efficiency,” according to the company.
Novant partnered with Zipline in 2020 to launch the nation’s first emergency drone logistics operation for pandemic response. The health-care system was the first hospital to be granted FAA approval for contactless delivery of personal protective equipment and critical medical supplies.
Each organization is working independently with Zipline to deliver a variety of products.
“We imagine a future in which goods are transported nearly instantly” that this collaboration “is making a reality,” Keller Rinaudo, founder and chief executive of Zipline, said in a statement. “In the process, we are setting the bar for care and convenience with instant logistics.”
In the latest collaborative initiative, Novant is using the drone deliveries for specialty medications to patients.
“While Novant Health has made great strides in our virtual care capabilities, there remains an opportunity for patients to receive all the care they need from home — from diagnosis to treatment,” said Angela Yochem, Novant’s chief transformation and digital officer. “Innovative tools, like Zipline’s on-demand deliveries, allow us to completely reimagine a fully remote patient-care model.
“The potential impact of this latest launch is immeasurable, and we are extremely energized about our role in creating a blueprint for health care systems across the country.”
Cardinal Health, a distributor of pharmaceuticals, medical and laboratory products, is using the service to deliver certain pharmaceutical products and medical supplies to Cannon Pharmacy Main to help mitigate risk of inventory stock-outs and reduce barriers for patients accessing the necessary products to fit their needs.
Magellan Rx Management, the only national pharmacy benefits manager, is delivering prescription medications directly to patients’ homes, including specialty medications that treat chronic, complex conditions.
Zipline’s drones have a round-trip range of more than 100 miles, making them capable of delivering medical supplies from the logistics center to more than 30 additional Novant facilities upon approval.
The Zipline drones are capable of carrying close to four pounds of cargo, flying up to 80 miles an hour even in high winds and rain.