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Drones in human health: transforming life sciences in the wilds of the healthcare jungle (Part 2)

May 10, 2018 - 100 views

Drones in human health: transforming life sciences in the wilds of the healthcare jungle (Part 2)

Drone technology will help the life sciences industry rethink approaches to observing patients, collecting data and transporting vital supplies.

In Part 1 of this series, I discussed Dian Fossey’s approach to gaining groundbreaking insights on primate behavior by directly observing and documenting the daily activities of gorillas in their natural environment. I described how applying and combining digital technologies such as drones and artificial intelligence (AI) could enable Fossey-style research at scale to improve how ranchers monitor animal health.

And what about human health? By using these technologies to study human behavior and human response to environmental variables in the complex healthcare ecosystem, would we be able to provide the same magnitude of understanding that has helped the industry improve medical diagnoses, stop the spread of a deadly bacteria, or monitor patient progress according to therapy protocol in the real world?

In conjunction with our partner ReD Associates, we’ve gained insights from studying patients with chronic conditions in their home environment; however, the use of drones, facial recognition and AI is not a popular notion among most people who value privacy and freedom. The use cases for these technologies in solving the shortage of resources in human healthcare need to be different.

While Amazon stretches the hype cycle in the name of 30-minute deliveries, the reality is that drone technology is poised to deliver some interesting opportunities to rethink approaches to observing patients, collecting data and transporting vital supplies for the life sciences industry. As a result, the industry could streamline clinical supply chains and truly enable continuity of care.

Ten Ways Drones Could Transform Life Sciences and Healthcare

While we’ve yet to see the skies freckled with those mesmerizing darlings named for their hypnotic hum, now is the time to explore where the opportunities may be for your business to take the lead in forming a drone/AI strategy. To give you a head start, we’ve compiled a list of opportunities to leverage drones for both movement- and monitoring-related activities in life sciences and healthcare:

  • Move it With Drones:
  1. Medical supply delivery to rural or disaster areas: Get vaccines, drugs, biologics, blood, devices and even organs to those in need
  2. Enterprise campus delivery: Transport bio-materials or small packages across and between large pharma and medical device campuses or warehouses.
  3. Labs and sample delivery: Collect patient or environment samples and transport to labs.
  4. Bio/immunotherapy supply chain: Transport production intermediaries between facilities for extraction, manufacturing and infusion to speed the supply chain.
  5. Clinical trial supply chain: Resupply clinical trial sites and patients just-in-time to reduce the burden of supply storage.


  • Monitor it With Drones
  1. Environmental observation: Monitor specific micro-regions for environmental factors that influence patient condition and supply chain routes, such as traffic data, air quality, noise pollution and weather patterns.
  2. Clinical trial environmental observation: Monitoring environmental data in regional clinical trial areas to gather real-world evidence that affects patients in clinical trials.
  3. Facilitate “age in place” for elderly care: Monitor chronic health conditions, assist with chores and deliver medication.
  4. Rehabilitation and physical therapy: Monitor range of motion in rehab patients with an analytics component to measure progress.
  5. Warehouse monitoring, inventory management and transport: Patrol for security, perform inventory tasks via barcode scan or RFID, and transport items within the warehouse.
A Sherpa for Your Journey

As discussed in Part 1, any journey with drones must start with a strategy that considers the impact on the ecosystem of living things and incorporates the know-how to mobilize and combine technologies. With our investment in and partnership with Measure, the leading  Drone as a Service® operator, as well as our recent launch of Drone Analytics and Information Services, we are bringing these potential applications of drone technology closer to reality in life sciences.

These new capabilities are already making an impact in the insurance industry, with novel approaches to streamlining damage assessment and claims processing. The time is now to begin applying similar thinking to streamline clinical supply chains and enable continuity of care.

Digital Business & Technology analytics , healthcare , artificial intelligence , life sciences , AI , digital health , drones , human health , clinical supply chain

Bryan Hill

Bryan Hill is Chief Technology Officer in Cognizant’s Life Sciences organization, responsible for digital solutions and...

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