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flyMED

by
Eiman Abdalla
Eiman Abdalla | Jul 28, 2017 | in Health Consulting

This is an idea for a direction that health assessment teams can take – called flyMED. I got this idea after interviewing elderly people in the villages of Nancholi, Blantyre. Most of them have illnesses that require ongoing prescription for medication. However, they travel up to 2 hours to the nearest hospital/clinic to get their prescription.

One of these villagers is Mary, 64 (pictured below). She suffers from low blood pressure and cannot walk very far due to having severe knee pain. However, she travels for 1 hour to Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital each month to get prescription for her blood pressure medication. The idea of flyMED is to help villagers like Mary, and the why and how are as follows:

Why:

-        Patients spend up to 50% of their daily income to travel to a doctor. FlyMED can cut the cost of travel for these patients, and they can use the extra money on other expenses such as medicine and/or food.

-        The travel time to the nearest clinic for most villagers is between 1 to 3 hours. FlyMED will save them travel time as the medication will be delivered to their village. For those patients who are affected physically by travelling long distances, such as Mary, it will alleviate pressure on their bodies and thus reducing any risk of the development of further health complications.

-        Health centers are overcrowded and understaffed. Doctor-patient contact time is low and this increases the chance for wrong diagnosis. Patients who subscribe to flyMED will not need to visit the doctor to access their medicine, therefore reducing the patient overflow in health clinics and increasing time doctors spend with patients.

How:

-        Doctors will diagnose the patient’s illness and determine their need for ongoing prescription medication.

-        Patients will register their personal (name, age, village), medical and medicinal details on the flyMED app. 

-        Doctors will input how frequently patients need this medication into app (weekly, monthly, etc.)

-        Medications are sent off using drone technology to specific village locations where patients can pick up their medication at specified dates. The medications will only be sent off after the doctor’s approval.

-        Another possible method is for the drones to fly directly to the patient’s home to drop off medication, given that the coordinates of their homes are identified.

While the health assessment team in July has been preliminarily testing machine-based learning apps that allow patients to self-diagnose, flyMED will completely be facilitated and controlled by health professionals. However, I believe that the app may be a successful sustainable solution as it covers two factors for a viable tech-based solution that were determined by the health assessment team in Malawi. These are improving access to health and alleviating pressure on healthcare providers. It is also a scalable solution because it has the opportunity to be adopted by multiple health centers in Malawi, and possibly developed to deliver medications for emergencies.

Although I believe that flyMED is a possible solution, I do not have a deep understanding of the logistics behind operating and maintaining drones for the delivery of medication, and of the development of applications. Furthermore, the source of revenue from the application will come from hospital subscriptions and patient registry fees. I do recognise that drone operations are expensive, so if you have any ideas that may offset the cost of their operations, comment it down below.

edited on Jul 28, 2017 by Eiman Abdalla

Claire Bushrod Aug 2, 2017

Hey Eiman,
Great idea, it definitely has potential and could even be used in association with the MedED app idea discussed by the health team. I have a few questions about your idea:

Will the doctors be supplied with smart phones/tablets or will they have to use their own? I understand that many people working in the health system appear to have smart phones for personal use, but I think you would have to look into smart phones for each hospital. Unfortunately this will add to the cost of operation. Additionally, will there need to be a smart phone for ordering and tracking at the customer's end or only for the doctor?

You mentioned the drones taking the medication to specific locations within villages. Would these be pharmacies or trusted community members? Unfortunately I think the distance to pharmacies is still significant and it could work better to send it to a person, such as the chief, who the villagers trust. Was this your intention?

I love that you suggested this could be used in emergencies, as it could be useful during asthma attacks etc. However would you need a doctor to be present, or merely contacted over the phone?

To further your final point on the logistics of operating drones, I think it is important to investigate the regulations surrounding their use and flight patterns. As I understand Malawi doesn't have restrictions, but if you were looking to expand the operations of FlyMED this would be important.

Again, great idea. I look forward to hearing more about it.

Reply 4

Soni Lawson Aug 3, 2017

Eiman, I think this is an amazing idea. I like the idea because it can be beneficial in the way, it will cut traveling and help them save money.

However I have a few questions in how this would be implemented, who will provide the technology? What if its an urgent case when the doctor has to be present?

other than that, I am keen to see how this will work out because it is a great concept in easy access to medication.

Reply 2

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