Not ‘The Jetsons,’ but close: Walmart testing drone delivery of COVID-19 testing kits
Thursday, October 01, 2020
"Jetsons"-like technology is coming to healthcare, like it or not. The drones are on the way. Blame COVID. Blame our society’s unquenchable desire to live in the space age. Perhaps even call it innovation; if nothing else, the recent news from Walmart, Quest Diagnostics, and DroneUp is pretty exciting.
The three are launching a pilot program that provides drone delivery of COVID-19 self-collection kits to single-family homes in the North Las Vegas area. Las Vegas brings us many things innovative — Wayne Newton residencies, the annual blockbuster CES technology conference, and now drone-delivered COVID-19 test kits.
Walmart's move is not unique to its brand, as the company continues to turn itself into a healthcare innovator. In July, it announced that it is planning to sell health insurance policies directly to its customers. By doing so, Walmart has the potential to drive up the volume for Medicare plans, according to reporting.
In 2019, the super retailer — still the world’s largest (twice as big as Amazon) — opened health clinics across several stores and continues to do so aggressively. In September 2020, Walmart announced the opening of 22 retail clinic locations in Georgia, Florida, and Arkansas by the end of 2021, increasing its 13 existing clinics. The clinics provide patients access to a range of healthcare services, including on-site lab testing, imaging, dental and vision services, psychiatric care, and access to health and wellness programs.
It only makes sense that the retailer is jumping into home delivery of health testing in response to COVID-19. If the drone trial works out, expect other services to follow, including across its entire product line, as appropriate (it’s unlikely that furniture and tires, for example, make their way across the skyline just yet).
SVB Leerink reports that online price lists for basic healthcare services at Walmart Care Clinics show pricing at a 35% to 40% discount to rival CVS HealthHUBs on essential, identical health services, "an ominous sign" for CVS "given that it is still early days in the development of retail-based care delivery."
But back to the drones. Other than the news coming as a welcome sign to anyone who doesn’t consider themselves a troglodyte, the drone deliveries will launch from the North Las Vegas Walmart, at 1807 West Craig Road, to single-family homes within a one-mile radius of the store.
The effort is a pilot to determine what roles drones can play in pandemic response, healthcare delivery, and retail, Quest Diagnostics said in a statement.
The drone delivery pilot will be available while supplies last every day from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., visibility and weather permitting.
Once delivered, patients will perform a self-administered nasal swab in the privacy of their homes. Patients then send the sample to a Quest Diagnostics lab using a pre-paid shipping envelope for processing at the lab. They will receive their COVID-19 test results through the Quest Diagnostics MyQuest online portal or app.
Patients must live within the store radius and request a drone delivery appointment through www.GetDroneTest.com. There is no delivery cost for qualifying patients.
Patients must also meet CDC and state and local guidelines for testing and be 18 years of age or older.
The kit includes a nasal swab collection device, the same kit Quest recently made available through its QuestDirect Active Infection Test.
Drone-delivered COVID test kits — given the era and time humans find themselves in, there might be nothing better than the real-world Jetsons for now.
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