Intermountain Healthcare is now deploying Zipline drones to deliver medication to patients in Utah and Salt Lake Valley counties. (Photo courtesy of Intermountain Healthcare)

Intermountain Healthcare takes Utah medication delivery to the skies with Zipline drones

October 07, 2022
by John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter
Intermountain Healthcare has launched a drone delivery service for its patients in the Salt Lake Valley through a partnership with Zipline.

The provider will transport prescriptions and over-the-counter medications to patients’ homes via Zipline’s electric, autonomous aircrafts, eventually servicing more than one million patients.

It will be the first health system west of the Mississippi to use Zipline, and will start off by delivering to communities within a few miles of the Zipline distribution center in the Salt Lake and Utah counties.

It plans to add new distribution centers, households, and community drop-off locations over time and deliver to approximately 90% of patient homes in the Salt Lake Valley area in the next five years.

Gordon Slade, associate vice president of supply chain logistics at Intermountain Healthcare, sees the service as helpful to those who are less mobile, sick or have work obligations.

"Combined with our telehealth services like Connect Care, it's possible to virtually see a doctor and get medication you need delivered from Zipline, without having to travel to a clinic or the hospital,” he said in a statement.

Zipline’s on-demand logistics and delivery system utilizes small, fixed-wing aircraft that fly quietly and parachute packages into a patient’s yard, in an area about the size of a couple of parking spaces.

They are launched from Zipline's distribution center on top of the Trans-Jordan Landfill from a slingshot-like launcher and retrieved at the same location by an arresting line that catches the craft as it passes over, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.

Flying up to a 50-mile radius, they can travel in rain, wind, and extreme temperatures. Each flight also produces about 30 times less CO2 emissions per mile than an electric car and up to 98% less than a combustion engine vehicle, an advantage for the Utah’s Wasatch Front, where air quality is a major concern.

Test flights have already begun, and those interested can sign up for the service at Zipline will evaluate if it can deliver to each person’s home, based on their yard size, location and surrounding airspace, and will touch base with those who are eligible. The service is available to anyone in South Jordan, a city in Salt Lake County.

Intermountain's pharmacy makes about 400 deliveries daily, six days a week. It plans to eventually expand the service to other communities in Utah and is currently covering all costs of drone delivery, which it expects will not be more expensive than ground delivery, reports The Salt Lake Tribune.

"Zipline and Intermountain Healthcare are working together to eliminate the burdens that make it harder to get the care you need when you need it,” said Bijal Mehta, head of global fulfillment operations at Zipline.

Zipline also provides drone delivery services in North Carolina and Arkansas.