Effect of unmanned aerial vehicle (drone) delivery on blood product delivery time and wastage in Rwanda: a retrospective, cross-sectional study and time series analysis

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Effect of unmanned aerial vehicle (drone) delivery on blood product delivery time and wastage in Rwanda: a retrospective, cross-sectional study and time series analysis


Journalthe lancet global health
Article typeJournal research article – Clinical research
Publication date – Mar – 2022
Authors – Marie Paul Nisingizwe, Pacifique Ndishimye, Katare Swaibu, Ladislas Nshimiyimana, Prosper Karame, Valentine Dushimiyimana, Jean Pierre Musabyimana, Clarisse Musanabaganwa, Sabin Nsanzimana, Michael R Law
KeywordsBlood transfusion, health facilities, Health research
Open access – Yes
SpecialityEmergency surgery, Other
World region Central Africa, Eastern Africa
Country: Rwanda
Language – English
Submitted to the One Surgery Index on March 31, 2022 at 1:20 am
Abstract:

Background
The accessibility of blood and blood products remains challenging in many countries because of the complex supply chain of short lifetime products, timely access, and demand fluctuation at the hospital level. In an effort to improve availability and delivery times, Rwanda launched the use of drones to deliver blood products to remote health facilities. We evaluated the effect of this intervention on blood product delivery times and wastage.

Methods
We studied data from 20 health facilities between Jan 1, 2015, and Dec 31, 2019, in Rwanda. First, we did a cross-sectional comparison of data on emergency delivery times from the drone operator collected between March 17, 2017, and Dec 31, 2019, with two sources of estimated driving times (Regional Centre for Blood Transfusion estimates and Google Maps). Second, we used interrupted time series analysis and monthly administrative data to assess changes in blood product expirations after the commencement of drone deliveries.

Findings
Between March 17, 2017, and Dec 31, 2019, 12 733 blood product orders were delivered by drones. 5517 (43%) of 12 733 were emergency orders. The mean drone delivery time was 49·6 min (95% CI 49·1 to 50·2), which was 79 min faster than existing road delivery methods based on estimated driving times (p<0·0001) and 98 min faster based on Google Maps estimates (p<0·0001). The decrease in mean delivery time ranged from 3 min to 211 min depending on the distance to the facility and road quality. We also found a decrease of 7·1 blood unit expirations per month after the start of drone delivery (95% CI −11·8 to −2·4), which translated to a 67% reduction at 12 months.

Interpretation
We found that drone delivery led to faster delivery times and less blood component wastage in health facilities. Future studies should investigate if these improvements are cost-effective, and whether drone delivery might be effective for other pharmaceutical and health supplies that cannot be easily stored at remote facilities.

Funding
Canadian Institutes for Health Research.

OSI Number – 21539

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