Home delivery for diabetes drugs in Rwanda

If you are a Rwanda citizen, there could a drone on your doorstep soon.

Well; not exactly on your doorstep – Zipline does not do that. We all know the drone logistics company air drops its packages in a place where clients find convenient to collect from.

And that is what is now on the cards for the east African country, as the government and their health delivery partner Zipline look for more ways to ensure that healthcare supplies reach their intended beneficiaries as fast as possible.

Having recently extended their medical delivery sphere of influence to cover the whole country, the Ministry of Health in partnership with Zipline and Partners in Health are conducting pilot trials to deliver insulin medications to diabetes patients right their doorsteps using drones.

As first reported by The New Times publication, the trials are already underway and were first conducted in the remote areas of Kayonza and Kirehe Districts in the Eastern Province.

The trials are being done in collaboration with a cohort of 27 (fifteen from Kayonza and twelve from Kirehe) Type 1 diabetes patients, who are trained on ways to monitor their blood glucose levels before setting up appointments with medical officials.

But with the Zips from Zipline now involved, the way it will work is that patients will get a call from their nurse, enquiring about their most recent blood readings, along with other relevant health information before recommending medication.

Once this process is complete to the nurse’s satisfaction, they will then send prescription details to the nearest Zipline hub for fast dispatch.

From there, it will be the usual pre-flights preparations from the Zipline people in readiness for delivery – packaging, loading, pre-flight checks – before the medicine is sent on its way.

Among deliveries that the patients will receive will be insulins, syringes, lancets, glucometers, logbooks and strips.

One major feature of this particular delivery is that, instead of being directed to a local clinic or hospital as usually happens with normal deliveries, the supplies will be directly taken to a patient’s home. They patient will not need to go anywhere to collect their medicine.

After receiving the ordered box dropped by a Zipline drone at the site, notification messages will be shared with zipline, the health care provider and the patient for confirmation.

“I use Rwf 6000 (about $5,50) from Kabare to Rwinkwavu (a distance of about 358km) hospital to get medication,” said Phoebe Mukapapa a resident of Kabare sector in Kayonza District, one of the pioneer trialists who has been relying on insulin medication for the past nine years.

Mukapapa is happy that the new delivery process that brings these medications to her home has cut her travel expenses to zero.

“It has been challenging to reach the hospital. It also required me to first request for a transfer from a health centre before going to the hospital.”

Medical drone logistics have been such a success in Rwanda that they now cover the whole country, and have inspired neighbouring countries in east and west Africa to incorporate drone logistics in their healthcare delivery operations.

“We are exploring feasibility and acceptability of doorstep delivering of insulin and other drugs to patients especially those living with diabetes in remote areas that are very difficult to access health care facilities,” Dr Vincent Cubaka, a medical practitioner and Researcher at Partners in Health told The New Times

“We are testing if this is an acceptable idea for them, and their health care providers, but also looking at the logistics of where a patient is living, with this study we will be able to make recommendations of what can be done next.”

The trials will go on until at least June this year and early results have been positive.


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