by Jordan Roberts
Director of Government Affairs, John Locke Foundation
We talk about telemedicine as a way that patients and doctors can access each other at a distance for treatment. But, what about connecting medical facilities with drones?
That’s the thought behind WakeMed’s drone connection system they are using to transport blood and urine samples between facilities around Raleigh – the first of its kind in the country. Check out this video from Stat News:
There are three main WakeMed campuses with other smaller health care facilities which WakeMed uses drones to transport lab samples. Traditionally WakeMed has used courier vans, but now those have been replaced as drone technology has become more advanced. It’s also more efficient than vans.
As stated in the video, some regulations have to be followed to utilize drone technology properly. One concern from N.C. Department of Transportation is the safety of the public. There are concerns that the autonomous drones aren’t flown by someone who can see them and the fact that the drones would be flying over patrons on the street.
Also, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act has several regulations to protect patient privacy. WakeMed has to comply with those when using this technology on a medical campus filled with patients.
This story offers a few points to consider. First, technology is going to continue to infuse itself into medical delivery. Just like with many other disruptive innovations, people are going to be skeptical and hesitant to adopt. However, with such a complicated health care system in the U.S., health care industry leaders will figure out ways to better implement technology to supplement the traditional delivery of care. This innovation would be stifled in a single-payer system.
Second, regulations are a concern with all facets of private enterprise. As the technology moves faster than the laws, some policymakers feel the need to step in to try to regulate an emerging technology (See telemedicine parity laws). We don’t want regulations that result in consequences that hinder the innovation that technology such as drones may provide.
It will be worth watching how more health facilities begin to implement new technology such as drones into the healthcare delivery system. In the same vein, how will lawmakers regulatory response affect the adoption and effectiveness of new technology?