Wales

Drones 'may help isolated patients in rural Wales'

A drone transporting medical supplies
Image caption Drones are being successfully used to deliver medicine and blood in Rwanda

Drones could be used to deliver blood or hospital medicine to isolated patients in rural Wales, according to researchers.

The unmanned devices are being tested by Aberystwyth University researchers as "a reliable and low-cost way" to reach remote patients.

They could deliver to hospitals or home addresses with "little human intervention".

Drones are already successfully used to deliver medical supplies in Rwanda.

The project involves members of the public to address "uncertainty or concerns about what drones might mean for their future", according to Dr Rachel Rahman, of Aberystwyth University.

Their results could lead to prototypes and a further study about how the drones are put into practise to transport mobile defibrillators, samples, blood and medical equipment.

Image caption Dr Rachel Rahman said focus groups would tackle any public "uncertainty" about drones

Last year, there were calls for services to innovate and accelerate their technology by the Parliamentary Review of Health and Social Care in Wales.

One potential solution is telemedicine, the electronic sharing of medical information, but poor broadband in rural areas means this is often limited for remote patients.

Matthew Willis, of Hywel Dda University Health Board, said the use of emergent technologies was "a key part" of the future of healthcare in Ceredigion.

"Patients want to be at home, not hospital. There is nothing stopping us from using this technology and these drones to deliver this care."

He added that the ability to get samples between patients and their hospital quicker "makes a significant difference to the quality of care a patient has".

Drones have already successfully been used to deliver medical equipment to other remote areas, such as district hospitals in Rwanda in east Africa.

Without drones, which reach Rwandan hospitals in about 20 minutes, medical equipment can arrive up to a few days later.

Image caption Medical supplies can reach patients within twenty minutes by drone

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