Telehealth drones

Telehealth Drones and Why They can Make a Difference


March 30, 2021 | Reading Time: 2 Minutes

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Just when clinicians are starting to get used to scheduling their video calls ahead of time and perhaps keeping digital notes, even newer technology knocks on the door. One of the most significant impediments of telehealth remains the physical limitations of technology.

The Need for Telehealth Drones 

The post-disaster observations of the EF-4 tornado in Hattiesburg in 2013 discovered that people used Twitter to communicate about their own distress or situations of other people that needed immediate assistance. Using cellphones, adequate information was readily available regarding which areas needed help, but the resources to help those people could not be easily transferred. A deeper analysis, blood tests, physical exams, etc., are crucial to providing accurate help to some individuals, and accessing these services online can be inaccurate or sometimes impossible. A technological solution was needed to view the disaster scene and, most importantly, provide medical assistance and resources to the people in need.

Repurposing drones for medical needs to help in troublesome situations was one such option. Drones can help us visualize the affected unreachable areas and help transfer medical kits and necessary life-saving resources to people in need in an affected region. Especially in current scenarios where socializing and physical communication is restricted, the need for such technology has become to the foreground.

Current Progress on Telehealth Drones

Researchers at the University of Cincinnati are working on small drones that can enter houses. Debi Sampsel, the director of telehealth at UC’s College of Nursing, stated. “When the COVID-19 pandemic began, we saw a need for telehealthcare delivery drones to provide healthcare in the home and in locations where access to care is not readily available.”

According to The Medical Futurists, Drone-based telemedicine can help improve volunteers’ and first responders’ safety in cases of infectious diseases such as Covid-19. The aim is to create telehealth drones that will be strong enough to carry medicine and resources to distant and unreachable places while being small enough to maneuver effectively through dense areas. Such drones can facilitate virtual visits, drop off or pick up supplies such as defibrillators, scissors, tourniquets, bandages, etc., or survey environments. The drones are equipped with artificial intelligence, sensors, and navigational algorithms developed by UC engineers, so they don’t have to rely on the manual remote control. These enhancements will make sure that the functionalities of these drones are not limited.

Telebehavioral Health Drones?

Telehealth drones can also be equipped with cameras and microphones, which are the basic tools needed for telebehavioral health care. Such technology holds great promise for all people, particularly for people in rural areas where Internet connections might still be unreliable.

 Read more about what steps were taken previously to expand telehealth in rural areas:

As can be imagined by behavioral professionals, drones can serve many people who are unable to be accessed otherwise. While this technology has now matured to the point of being practical, it is now up to our legislators to craft adequate laws to keep everyone safe. 

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