Amazon Pharmacy announced its latest innovation today: drone delivery for medications. The venture is initially launching in College Station, Texas, where customers can now get their prescription medications delivered to right outside their door within 60 minutes or less.
This new offering is a big feat, evidenced by the amount of investment and infrastructure that the company has devoted to this effort. The drones themselves are state-of-the-art: they employ sense-and-avoid technology to navigate around obstacles, work with a neural network and computer vision to identify impediments, and fly at an altitude of 40 to 120 meters to deliver medications at unprecedented speeds.
Perhaps the only thing more impressive than the technology itself is the significant value addition this service will bring to patients. Specifically, Amazon has slowly created an entire healthcare ecosystem that can be curated to a patient’s needs and convenience. This is achieved through Amazon Clinic, which provides 24/7 virtual care for 35 medical conditions; One Medical, which is Amazon’s primary care service; and an already existing and robust pharmacy service.
Now, with drone delivery for medications, Amazon has taken the convenience factor one step further. Moreover, the access to care piece is especially monumental. The launch of this service ushers in a new and unprecedented paradigm: by using the broader Amazon healthcare ecosystem, patients can potentially get diagnosed with a condition via one of the above-mentioned clinical services and receive their medication via drone delivery 60 minutes later.
Dr. Vin Gupta, chief medical officer of Amazon Pharmacy, explains that this effort is attempting to break new ground and introduce a heightened level of care to the household—specifically by going from triaged care to treatment as quickly as possible. Dr. Gupta is a pulmonologist and critical care physician and has a deep understanding of the value and importance of timely treatment. He describes the “golden window” of treatment, which refers to the optimal time period during which treatment should be administered, in order to enable the highest likelihood of a successful medical outcome. Dr. Gupta explains: “there isn’t enough talk about treatment in the golden window. Normally, it is impossible to deliver treatment within that golden window unless you’re in the four walls of the hospital.”
With drone delivery by Amazon Pharmacy, this is no longer the baseline assumption, given that medications can now be delivered rapidly. “This is our attempt to challenge that paradigm. I’m excited for the potential of what we are doing here, and get patients the care that they need,” Dr. Gupta exclaims.
John Love, vice president of Amazon Pharmacy, further explains in the press release:
“For decades, the customer experience has been to drive to a pharmacy with limited operating hours, stand in line, and have a public conversation about your health situation, or to wait five-to-10 days for traditional mail-order delivery. With Amazon Pharmacy, you can quickly get the medications you need—whether by drone or standard delivery—without having to miss soccer practice or leave work early.”
Indeed, Amazon Pharmacy has truly set the standard for a new era of how patients will access medications. Although there is still work to be done, one thing is certain: Amazon’s continued commitment to prioritizing the patient and customer experience, above all else, empowers the company with significant potential to truly improve the healthcare landscape in the years to come.