drone healthcare technology

The accelerated adoption of drones in healthcare

30th June 2020

We explore how the 2020 coronavirus crisis has accelerated the use of drones in the delivery of healthcare.

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Drones in Healthcare

The commercial use of drones has steadily been gaining traction over the last decade.

The global market for medical drones was valued at USD $88.2 million in 2018. It is expected to witness 24.7% CAGR from 2019 to 2025. The UK market is anticipated to see even higher than 25% CAGR from 2019 to 2025. The global circumstances resulting from the coronavirus pandemic are likely to increase demand for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and drive the value of the drone market up even higher than forecast.

Drones have the potential to transform the delivery of healthcare. They have a large spectrum of medical uses that could be particularly valuable during this pandemic:

  • Search and Rescue: searching vast areas for people in need of rescue/help in any environment
  • Transport/Delivery: rapid delivery of medical supplies to rural areas between hospitals/labs or directly to the person in need
  • Medical Care: remote delivery of medical advice/care

Curzon Consulting drone medical uses

Despite wide potential applications in healthcare, the use of drones in practice has been fairly limited. Safety and security concerns have led to tight regulations on airspace. This makes it difficult to phase in drones for practical (rather than recreational) use. Drones have a bad reputation due to their potential abuse in breaching privacy, violating human rights and irresponsible use by hobbyists, particularly at airports. Consequently, only a small proportion of the potentially vast benefits offered by drones in healthcare have been realised.

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COVID-19 impact on drones in healthcare

The coronavirus crisis has acted as a catalyst for the adoption and acceptance of drones in healthcare. There are two main reasons for this:

  1. The need to deliver medical care/supplies quickly is more urgent
  2. Social distancing and quarantine measures have made remotely operated systems particularly valuable

As a result of coronavirus, how has drone use changed or adoption accelerated? We’ve included some examples below.

Dutch company Avy manufactures wing drones for use in urban healthcare logistics, rural delivery of supplies, and first response emergency services. Avy responded to the pandemic by exploring the use of wing drones to transport COVID-19 samples from small municipalities to labs in larger cities. This would help contain the virus and minimise risk of the virus spreading.

We spoke to Patrique Zaman, Founder of Avy, about the healthcare challenges that Avy is trying to overcome.

This is an example of a drone company, Manna Aero, that changed their focus from food delivery to medicine delivery during the pandemic.

The Irish start-up launched their drone delivery service earlier this year, with the aim of moving road-based food delivery into the skies. Manna Aero’s trial delivery of takeaways to college students in mid-March had to be halted due to the coronavirus lockdown, but this did not deter them from switching focus to help in the crisis. The company has instead been working with the Irish Health Service Executive to deliver medicines and other essential supplies such as break and milk to vulnerable people in the rural town of Moneygall. Local GPs write prescriptions after a video consultation, which the drones deliver directly to homes. This represents a first in Ireland. Manna Aero is equipped to handle up to 100 deliveries a day, and hopes to bring trials to the UK soon.

The UK’s lockdown in 2020 triggered the government to grant permission for a UAV to deliver medical supplies across the Solent to a hospital on the Isle of Wight. This is part of a UK government project to develop a system allowing manned and unmanned aircraft to operate in the same airspace.

The UAV, developed by the University of Southampton and funded by the start-up Windracers, was given permission to fly as part of the British government’s Covid-19 response. It has a range of 1,000km and can carry up to 100kg.

Compared to the more traditional ferry, this novel approach allows faster, more frequent, and more reliable delivery of medical supplies.

The Covid-19 response has triggered a partnership between the drone delivery provider Skyports and Thales to trial the delivery of medical supplies.

The two-week pilot is backed by NHS Highland, and Argyll and Bute Council, with drones supplied by unmanned aircraft-maker Wingcopter. The delivery service will be based in Oban. It aims to ensure that isolated communities on the Isle of Mull (16km away) have access to COVID-19 tests and sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE).

This trial is a crucial milestone for unmanned aviation in the UK. It was granted as an exception to current rules by the Civil Aviation Authority.

Zipline is a US drone company that delivers supplies to rural communities in Rwanda and Ghana. In order to support the Covid-19 response in Africa, Zipline changed its focus to using drones to provide clinics with PPE and coronavirus test samples. The lightweight drones deliver to clinics up to 85km away. There are plans to use the drones to deliver supplies directly to the elderly and vulnerable who need to self-isolate.

Zipline CEO Keller Rinaudo thinks that drone deliveries could play a vital role both during the current crisis and in the coming months and years.

The Chinese government has been proactive in piloting ways to incorporate drones into their response to the coronavirus.

Drones originally designed to spray pesticides have been adapted to spray disinfecting chemicals in public spaces. Testing the use of drones to deliver of medical samples began in February, with over 20 flights per day at peak operation in Zhejiang Province. Consumer delivery of essential items has also been trialled, with e-commerce company JD developing a drone team to deliver to Anxin’s semi-isolated islands.

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Future outlook

The unprecedented circumstances brought about by Covid-19 have kick-started the use of drones in new and exciting ways, but we are only scratching the surface of their full potential.

To progress, we need to learn from this pandemic and make changes that will ultimately lead to a better healthcare experience. Rather than relying on experimentation, we should pre-plan how drones can be used during disease outbreaks and make appropriate investments. Drones need to be integrated into planned health responses. In addition, coordination between the public and private sector will be crucial to overcome regulation by civil aviation authorities.

It is obvious that drones have a big role to play in the delivery of healthcare. The route to unlocking their true potential will offer exciting and rewarding opportunities in the future.

How Curzon can help

Curzon Consulting help with strategy and digital transformation. We have experience working in collaboration with companies to embed technology into their organisation. Curzon can:

  • Conduct feasibility studies
  • Build a business case and commercial offering
  • Design the most appropriate operating model and integration plan
  • Conduct a technical requirement assessment

Get in touch to find out how we can help or arrange a free virtual meeting with our Healthcare partner, Chetan Trivedi.

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Contact us for more information or submit a request for proposal to our healthcare consulting team

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Precision medicine - using data to prevent heart disease and stroke

26th June 2020

Curzon Healthcare Lead Chetan Trivedi in conversation with Dr Rameen Shakur MD PhD (Cantab), Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston. We explore precision medicine, the importance of a patient centric approach to data and how medical technology is improving healthcare accessibility.

Rameen is the founder of Cambridge Heartwear and the Jansen Fellow for Cardiology and precision medicine at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). This interview was not sponsored. All views are Dr Rameen Shakur’s and not that of MIT.

Watch a highlight of our conversation below

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Precision medicine and technology

Precision medicine refers to the tailoring of medical treatment to the individual characteristics of each patient.

Precision medicine does not mean the creation of drugs or medical devices that are unique to a patient, but rather the ability to sub-classify individuals into populations that differ in their susceptibility to a particular disease. And for that to occur, Rameen argues we need “not just the therapeutic arm, the diagnostic arm, but also the analytical arm to all intermingle in one.”

Rameen is the founder of Cambridge Heartwear, a medical technology and AI device manufacturer. Through novel engineering, Rameen and his colleagues at University of Cambridge fused diagnostics, and real-time delivery of data and analytics. Cambridge Heartwear aims to reduce the impact of strokes by detecting irregular heart rhythms in real-time through a pairing monitoring device and artificial intelligence algorithms. This real-time wearable ECG (electrocardiogram) device has cut the diagnosis and treatment process down from three weeks to days. Rameen explains it is also a means to measure our physiology in more granularity.

Part of Cambridge Heartwear’s goal is more integrated healthcare across primary, secondary and tertiary care. Rameen explains “once you deal with that whole process of how to manage a system to amalgamate all of those together, then you make a real inroad into what we want to call precision medicine.”

Similar to many technology companies, such as HP and Apple, Rameen built the first prototype in a shed in his back garden.

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Patient centric design

What makes Cambridge Heartwear disruptive is the focus on the patient. Throughout the design process, Rameen is “very patient centric”.

This carries through to the availability and ownership of data. “It’s patient centric because if we want to get to a view of precision medicine, you have to give access to people for that data. The point is it is their data. It is their own right to actually have that data, access that data and do as they please with that data.” From the patient perspective it is a means for them to obtain specific data related to the cardiovascular system for the first time, namely the whole electricity of the heart when they’re moving around. Consequently, access to this data enables people to have an informed conversation with physicians on treatment modalities.

This focus on the patient not only applies to data but the design of the wearable itself “We wanted a wearable that would be ergonomic”. The design encompassed:

  • Real-time data and analytics transmission from patient to physician across the world
  • Patient experience – “we wanted a system where you can go about your daily business”

Historically many medical technology companies have adopted a male-centric approach to data and design. Rameen was mindful of gender bias in his medical technology design, stating

“the whole design was done for the anatomical differences between males and females.”

Accessibility for all is at the heart of what Rameen’s trying to achieve. He believes that coronavirus has affected healthcare by firstly highlighting the health inequalities that exist in society and secondly adopting technology to break down those barriers. “who has access has power is no longer the statement that we want to hear”. The COVID-19 pandemic has also highlighted the important role of technology to deliver information from patients’ homes to hospitals and physicians.

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The future of precision medicine

We ask Dr Rameen what precision medicine could look like in the next 30 years.

“Precision medicine I hope will garner a lot of technology, innovation and discovery. In our lab, for example, we are teasing out for the first time methodologies for risk stratification for patients who may have had the genetic test.

We are getting more and more nuanced in the way we collect data. Previously, for example when we talked about disease associations, we referred to a particular subpopulation, a particular racial population… For a complete picture, one needs to know and have a whole profile of different technologies that are applicable across the board, across society. I believe what we need to do is to bring that back to society and say, let’s talk about it in the context of the population of our global population.”

I believe we will likely see more integration of digital technology with the biotech fields… I hope to see more of this sort of collaboration where novel engineering comes head to head with medical technology processes, whereby the actual information is now being stored in biological systems, having a discourse with physicians at a much more accessible point. And I think this concept which has started to happen

“It’s a very exciting time within the next five to 10 years, we’re seeing a lots of big changes”.

The concepts of portability and real time data are “something that we are very proud to work on and something that’s also of interest to us as we move to our next phase of humanity into space.” Indeed, the emergence of space travel tourism launches an opportunity to observe medical data and physiology outside of the earth’s atmosphere.

But one thing’s for certain, the aim of medical technology is not to replace humans.

“I think one of the key points about technology is we have to get away from just being a tech company. You are a human company, which is dealing with humans and for the survival of patients, we need to have all in our armoury. So I make no apology to say that we would never want to replace the physician, but rather to make that whole process a lot easier and less journey as for all involved.”

An important time for innovation in the UK

Rameen is proud of the work that UK engineers and manufacturers are doing right now. He believes that as a country

“we are very strong in artificial intelligence. We may not have previously been very vocal about that, but the proof is in the pudding. And I’m glad to say a lot of people are having the puddings!”

Contact us for more information or submit a request for proposal to our healthcare consulting team

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Global business risk and impact survey 2020

Take the business risk and impact survey

As many countries start to ease lockdown, companies will need to adjust their business models to a “new normal”. Companies must now construct a recovery plan focused on mitigating the main business risks and taking advantage of the main opportunities. To help our clients to prepare for recovery, we are launching the COVID-19 Global Business Risk and Impact Survey.

This will enable top executives to identify and evaluate the main risks which could affect their businesses given the current context of the COVID-19 crisis.

Through our partnership with the Nextcontinent network, the survey will be conducted in over 30 countries meaning we can identify trends at a global level with local insight.

By completing the survey you will receive a:

  • customised report with a series of suggested measures to address the most critical risks in your business
  • free meeting with one of our Partners to understand the results and what it means for your business
  • consolidated analysis of the global responses

The survey takes approximately 15 minutes to complete.

We invite you to complete the risk and impact survey before June 26th.

Take the survey

CONTACT US TO FIND OUT HOW WE CAN HELP

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Digitalisation in building supplies

8th June 2020

The global COVID-19 pandemic is changing customer behaviour across the UK. We explore the digitalisation adopted by many building supplies companies to meet new customer expectations.

Muhammad Ali, Curzon Consulting Principal, discusses the impact of coronavirus on customer expectations and digitalisation with David Young, Group CEO of The Bradfords Group. Bradfords is a leading independent Builders Merchants in the UK.

Watch the highlights of our conversation:

Changing customer expectations

Navigating supply and demand challenges brought about by COVID-19

David explains the challenges that the pandemic has created in the building supplies industry.

Initially, Bradfords’ shops remained open to support essential projects and self-employed customers. In March, the morning after the UK lockdown was announced, Bradfords experienced extraordinary levels of demand. They realised that although Bradfords had a number of social distancing measures in place, they wanted to create a new process to safely meet the rapid change in customer demand. They opened back up the next morning with a brand new process – to order either via phone and collect, or order through the website.

This generated “unprecedented demand on the phones”, increasing from around 1,500 calls per day to 15,000.  Consequently, both trade and retail customers looked to other channels such as the website. David explains

“we started seeing a big uptick in our trade customers using our portal and then transacting online, and also retail customers”.

However this surge in online demand came with a new set of supply chain challenges. Therefore, to ensure that Bradfords could continue to supply products for essential products and key projects they:

  • Temporarily closed their business to the retail customer base
  • Rationalised their product range

Furthermore, showcasing fewer products created a better website user experience which in turn generated an increase in sales. In fact, the eCommerce sales are still increasing, even now Bradfords have reopened their shops and yard to customers.

Are these changes in customer behaviour expected to continue?

In the short to medium term, this changing end user behaviour is expected to continue. Trends include:

  • Customers increasingly plan ahead
  • Customers continue to buy online
  • An increase in retail customers
  • A spread of footfall across the day, rather than a concentration of customers in the morning

“What COVID-19 has forced customers to do is plan ahead” David Young explains. Due to extended lead times and the click & collect service, Bradfords have seen their customers become much more planned. This change in behaviour is also helping operations “it helps us manage our workloads and forecasting stock levels”.

Building a strong ecommerce offering

The growing focus on ecommerce in building products is mirrored in the wider UK retail market and high street. Companies like Bradfords have been “through a long journey on ecommerce” and now find themselves well positioned to generate new sales through this channel. This represents a shift in focus for the building materials industry. A renewed focus on driving sales through the website highlights the importance of understanding insights from data. David recognises that good data is an important investment and Bradfords work closely with suppliers to ensure they are capturing data.

Overall, the pandemic has led to a renewed focus on digital strategy.

“I think the pandemic has really forced people and businesses to really look at their digital platforms”.

What does the future of trade counter operations look like?

Digitalisation in building supplies merchants during coronavirus has caused a spread in footfall across the day in shops. David forsees that click and collect will become a bigger part of building merchant life, likely as a separate service. Offering click and collect on light and heavy side products, such as forklifts, will require companies to restructure the way they operate. Key considerations are:

  • Resource to ensure they can offer customers quick turnaround time
  • Speed and efficiency of processes
  • Omni channel offering
  • Flexibility around opening hours – digitalisation opens up a 24 hour service
  • Product ranges

The ability to react quickly to meet changing demand is key, both within the business and across the supply chain. Indeed, David recognises the importance of planning ahead and sees the importance of builders merchants becoming “much more productive in the future”.

Changing relationships across the supply chain

Will digitalisation disrupt the value chain? Does it change the relationship between manufacturer, distributor and end user?

David sees this as an evolution rather than disruption:

“I think the relationship between the merchant, and the supplier will change dramatically. You know data is so important and historically I’ve found that data within our supply chain is very poor… a lot of manufacturers just don’t hold the level of data needed in this new world…

I think there’s a big wakeup call coming”.

Merchants need to be mindful of potential risks, particularly if they:

  • Are slow to react to digital customer demand and develop their eCommerce platforms
  • Don’t react quickly – “actually some of the suppliers will vertically integrate and sell direct and cut us out.”

This evolution also presents a number of opportunities for building supplies merchants to:

  • Work with suppliers that are invested in data and technology
  • Build stronger vendor relationships
  • Attract a new demographic of customer
  • Understand the many payment platforms and react accordingly

In summary, digitalisation across building supplies gives businesses the opportunity to adopt digital, improve customer experience and improve supply chain relationships.

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