Special Delivery: Drones bringing the doctor inside your home

A team of scientists is working on a first-of-a-kind solution that would bring healthcare delivery closer than ever before.

CINCINNATI – Some drones have the capability to deliver packages to someone’s front door. But the technology has limitations, so it’s mostly used outdoors.

Now a team of scientists is working on a first-of-a-kind solution that would bring healthcare delivery closer than ever before.

You might have heard them buzz or seen them overhead. But imagine these robots on a special medical mission.

“We are building a telehealth drone that will have the ability to go inside people’s homes,” said Manish Kumar, Ph.D., professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Cincinnati. “That’s very, very challenging from technology point of view, because once you go inside people’s homes, you lose connection with the GPS.”

University of Cincinnati engineers are designing and testing special sensors that would allow the drones to maneuver through a front door, into a patient’s living room carrying a tablet or smart phone. Patients would connect with a doctor for a telehealth appointment and access a special medical kit attached to the drone so they can measure and transmit health information.

“We’ll be able to get a read on their heart rate. We’ll be able to know what their oxygen level is in their body,” said Debi Sampsel, DNP, Director Telehealth, UC College of Nursing.

“It’s going to let, uh, all the people stay at home for, for longer time, more independently,” Kumar said.

Landing a drone safely in your living room. These researchers hope it will be all science and not fiction.

Researchers say the prototype is ready and tested for use in people’s homes. It will be ideal for patients who live in rural areas miles or hours away.

In the United States, one in four people do not have a primary care provider or easily accessible health center. The U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion says increasing access to routine care is critical for improving health.