Medical Logistics: Challenges and Solutions
Over 3 trillion dollars: this is a number that will be in the news a lot between now and the 2020 election. This is the amount of money spent on healthcare in the United States.
While the most expensive part of the system is staff costs, medical and pharmaceutical supplies are the second most expensive component of health care. Although the development and production of these supplies account for some of the cost, so does medical and pharmaceutical logistics.
According to Zion Market Research, the medical transportation services market is “valued at USD 21.82 billion in 2017 and is expected to reach USD 31.51 billion globally by 2026.”
Like many aspects of logistics as a whole, the transportation of medical and pharmaceutical supplies is influenced by many factors, but it has an added stress. The accuracy and speed of medical and pharmaceutical logistics can be the difference between life and death.
This means that companies must utilize the latest technologies, understand regulations, and know the unique needs of each shipment. Here are four challenges medical and pharmaceutical logistics face, and ways the logistics industry is finding solutions.
Supply Chain Security
Today, technologies like blockchain can ensure the security of shipments around the world. For medical and pharmaceutical logistics, this is an especially important technology to embrace. Blockchain imprints a unique code on a shipment, allowing it to be tracked and traced throughout shipping.
This type of security and tracking is important because “regulators and companies can determine the authenticity, identity and whereabouts of a particular drug product.”
Pharmaceutical companies need seamless supply chain management to meet regulations. AFP Global Logistics allows our clients the security they need, with access to real-time data and metrics through our client platform.
New Developments in Medicine
Today, patient-specific therapies, medicines and treatments are on the rise. Previously doctors prescribed medicines based on the condition of the patient, and perhaps other factors like age, gender, and medical history.
However, recent years have seen a rise in therapies tailor-made for patients, sometimes based specifically on their genome or the genetic reason for their condition.
While this is great news in medicine and for patients, it presents a challenge for the logistics industry. Where previously drug companies manufactured therapies at larger scales and shipped them to pharmacies and hospitals, now, drugs may need to get directly to patients.
This shift in medicine means that logistics companies must have close relationships with their clients, offer flexible logistics solutions, and develop last-mile delivery options.
Medical and pharmaceutical products are also unique in that they almost always have to be climate controlled. Extreme temperatures can disrupt the efficacy of both solid and liquid medicines, as well as medical technology products.
Traditionally, shippers took the temperature of products only at unloading and loading points.
This provided some information, but not a complete picture. During transportation, clients lacked temperature data. This can be especially problematic at the end unloading point. If temperatures were not suitable, but it wasn’t discovered until delivery, patients might not get the medicine they need.
Today, smart packing, wireless and Bluetooth technologies, and real-time temperature tracking devices allow shippers to continually monitor temperature data. AFP Global Logistics offers a full range of services in cold chain logistics.
All of our ground, air, and rail transportation offer climate-controlled transportation while our warehousing and storage can also be climate-controlled.
Customs and Documentation
Recent uncertainty in global trade leads to increased challenges in cross-border logistics. This extends to medical and pharmaceutical logistics.
Recently, the United Kingdom’s Department of Health and Social Care announced they would spend up to 3 million GBP to transport medicines, blood and transplant tissue in case of a no-deal Brexit. They recognize that having fast, easy access to the medicines and pharmaceuticals the country needs is of vital importance.
Here in the United States, President Donald Trump recently suggested that to reduce medical costs, the country should consider importing prescription drugs from Canada.
According to Kaiser Health News, “The proposal would permit pilot programs developed by states, pharmacies or drug distributors that sought to safely import prescription medications from Canada.”
This has the potential to open up new streams of pharmaceutical shipping, which would need to adhere to regulations and industry standards. AFP Global Logistics has over 25 years of experience in the logistics industry, including international transportation and logistics. We offer customs house brokerage, full documentation preparation, import-export services, and AES compliance.