Cleveland Clinic to launch prescription delivery via drone in 2025, starting with specialty and rush medications

Cleveland Clinic plans to launch a drone delivery service to bring certain medications directly to patients’ homes, starting in 2025. 

The service initially will be used to send specialty medicines and other prescriptions to patients’ homes from more than a dozen Cleveland Clinic locations across northeast Ohio, the health system announced Tuesday.

The program will eventually expand to include delivery of lab samples, prescription meals, medical and surgical supplies and items for hospital-at-home services. Most of these shipments would typically be sent via automotive courier or ground delivery. 

“We are always looking for solutions that are cost-effective, reliable and reduce the burden of getting medications to our patients,” said Bill Peacock, chief of operations at Cleveland Clinic, said in a statement. “Not only are deliveries via drone more accurate and efficient, the technology we are utilizing is environmentally friendly. The drones are small, electric and use very little energy for deliveries.” 

Cleveland Clinic is partnering with drone company Zipline to use its Platform 2 system. The company already works with several other health systems including Michigan Medicine, Intermountain Health and MultiCare Health System.

Zipline says its Platform 2 system, which it unveiled in March, can perform precise deliveries to dense urban areas and complete a 10-mile delivery in about 10 minutes.

Docks for the drones and loading portals will be added at several of Cleveland Clinic’s facilities in northeast Ohio. When a prescription is ready, a Cleveland Clinic technician will load the drone. It will then autonomously undock, fly at 300 feet to a patient’s home and deploy an autonomous delivery droid that steers to the correct location and drops off its package to areas as small as a patio table or the front steps of a home. The drone will then fly back and dock itself. Patients will be able to track their deliveries in real time, the companies said.

Cleveland Clinic is a 6,700-bed health system that includes a 173-acre main campus near downtown Cleveland, 23 hospitals and more than 275 outpatient facilities including locations in northeast Ohio, southeast Florida, Las Vegas, Toronto, Abu Dhabi and London. 

“Zipline has been focused on improving access to healthcare for eight years. We’re thrilled to soon bring fast, sustainable and convenient delivery to Cleveland Clinic patients,” said Keller Rinaudo Cliffton, co-founder and CEO of Zipline, in a statement.

Earlier this month, Amazon Pharmacy announced a new drone delivery service for prescription medication orders with the service initially taking flight in College Station, Texas. Amazon said the pharmacy deliveries will be dropped, quite literally, outside a consumer's front door within 60 minutes at no additional cost for eligible Amazon Pharmacy customers, the company said.

Amazon Pharmacy is teaming up with the online retailer's drone service, Prime Air, which kicked off commercial deliveries in the same Texas city in December.

In 2024, Cleveland Clinic will begin work with government officials to ensure compliance with all safety and technical requirements for drone delivery and will start to install the docks and loading portals for the drone system, the health system said.

“This technology will help us achieve our goal to expand our pharmacy home delivery program and provide easier, quicker access to prescribed medications in our communities,” said Geoff Gates, senior director of supply chain management at Cleveland Clinic. 

The system and aircraft are designed with multiple layers of safety including preflight inspections and real-time monitoring by operations teams, according to the company.

Zipline began delivering medical products in 2016. The company now operates in seven countries covering millions of people per day.