Project Everest

Moonshot thinking with Drones - The Malawi Healthcare system

Alessanda Oliveri
Alessanda Oliveri | Dec 18, 2017 | in Health Consulting

Within Malawi, there are various barriers to healthcare access especially within rural areas. These include but are not limited to extensive travel times, poor clinician availability, and health illiteracy. The Drones and Drug service aims to minimise the effect of these barriers to the healthcare center, and provide those within rural communities with access to both healthcare advice and pharmaceutical treatments. Currently, citizens living within rural Malawi travel up to 3 hours to access a healthcare facility or clinic, where they spend up to 2 hours waiting to see a clinician (Jafry 2016). There is a prominent issue with overcrowding within these facilities due to limited availability of healthcare professionals; on average 7 healthcare providers per 10,000 people in comparison to the minimum World Health Organisation recommendation of 23 per 10,000 (Redican 2015). Additionally, due to poor health literacy, many travel for medical advice about conditions that are easily treatable, including common colds, dehydration, headaches and diarrhoea. The Drones and Drugs service will eliminate the need for people to travel extensive distances, and avoid associated waiting times, for easily treatable conditions and therefore reduce congestion within these facilities.

  • The Drones and Drugs service begins with the use of the app, in which patients enter their symptoms into a database to receive a diagnosis.
  • Following the diagnosis, a recommendation of medications to treat that diagnosis would then appear, in which the user can choose to order
  • This order request would be linked to pharmacies via the application within the Blantyre District, where a pharmacist can either accept or decline and recommend a clinician visit for the user.
  • If they choose to accept the request, the user will be charged via the mobile credit loaded onto their smartphone, and the pharmacist will prepare the order
  • Once the order has been packaged by the pharmacist a confirmation of payment and an ETA will be sent to the user
  • These pharmaceuticals will then be transported via drones/UAV to the GPS coordinates that the order has been made from.

We acknowledge that this service is not applicable for those suffering from serious illnesses, and therefore the application will only allow those with easily treatable conditions to benefit from the service.

In further thinking, the team believes this application service could be of use to big data companies. The data collected through the service around pharmaceutical supplies and diagnostic trends within locations could be used for epidemiological studies and improving pharmaceutical supply management within Malawi.

As this is only moonshot thinking, the team understands there are complications surrounding the idea, as well as the need for further research and development. However, this idea could potentially be worked on in future health assessment phases, as it is highly applicable within the community. Additionally, the team fleshed out a business model canvas and diagram of the process, which is attached for further reading. This has not been the focus of the December Health Team within Malawi, but is only a snapshot of our future thinking sessions. Currently we are assessing the viability of this pre-diagnostic application; Keep updated for more information and a massive research protocol to be delivered soon. 


From the health team in Malawi,



Jafry, M. A., Jenny, A. M., Lubinga, S. J., Larsen-Cooper, E., Crawford, J., & Matemba, C. (2016). Examination of patient flow in a rural health center in Malawi. BMC Research Notes 9(1). doi: 10.1186/s13104-016-2144-x


Redican, K. J., Abbas, K., Elvinger, F., Hosig, K., Marmagas, S. W., Chitsulo, P., Kelly, P., Burton, J., Tlou, J., & Carter-Tod, S. (2015). Making a difference in Malawi and Zambia through health education and public health best practices. Global Journal of Health Education Promotion, 16(2), 18-32. doi: 10.18666/GJHEP-2015-V16-I2-5964


edited on Dec 18, 2017 by Alessanda Oliveri

Liam Donovan Dec 18, 2017

What a beast BMC, I wonder who did this...

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Edan Baker Dec 18, 2017

Nice tags

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Alessanda Oliveri Dec 18, 2017

Could't do it without your amazing conducting skills

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Liam Donovan Dec 18, 2017

I spy some Star Wars references

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Gabriel Raubenheimer Jan 22, 2018

Fantastically interesting post Alessanda.

Have you taken a look at the Zipline project in Rwanda? A lot of the challenges this would have have been sorted out by them. Their financials are based on the Government paying per trip.

This idea is interesting because you've further extended its reach by opening it to people without direct access to medical professionals.

Very interested to see how this develops.

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Alessanda Oliveri Jan 23, 2018

Hi Gabriel, The team and I drew inspiration from Zipline. iwth

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Alessanda Oliveri Jan 23, 2018

With further empathising and data collection, I hope that this will become a reality. It will be very interesting to see how it will work logistically within the Malawi health care setting!

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cain velasquez 2 months ago


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