The global pharmaceuticals market is expected to overrun 1.5$ trillion by 2023. Thus, logistics must sustain the constantly growing demand in the healthcare industry.
What is healthcare logistics?
Healthcare logistics is one of the most critical factors that contribute to the general level of community health. Proper and timely treatment relies on the organization of the logistics process. The state of health and an individual’s life often depends on effective healthcare logistics.
Healthcare products include items used in the medical industry to maintain and improve consumers’ health. Medical products are in high demand in different population categories and often require immediate replacement. Depending on their type, healthcare products fall under several categories:
- Healthcare substances represent all the chemical and physical substances for medical treatment.
- Healthcare equipment involves whole medical appliances and devices and often are big.
- Healthcare supplies include various medical tools, materials, and equipment parts. These supplies are characterized by high replacement demand, and customers frequently order them in large quantities.
How does the healthcare supply chain work?
The healthcare supply chain comprises several primary stages that allow shippers to understand better and organize the transportation flow.
- Manufacturing and supply. All the pharmaceutical products are manufactured and packed at a plant with an established temperature environment. These temperatures are optimal for storing the drugs for a certain period. Typically, shippers need to maintain the original temperature levels during transportation.
- Transportation. The vehicles you choose to move healthcare products must be suitable for the cold chain strategy. They often undergo inspections and should satisfy state regulations.
- Storage. You can locate pharmaceuticals in refrigerated warehouses before reaching the final destination. Sometimes, shippers skip the storage step due to delivering products directly to the customer.
- Distribution. The final step of the process is delivering the healthcare supplies to the customers, pharmacies, or medical institutions for distribution.
Challenges of healthcare logistics
Healthcare logistics face many challenging tasks along with the increasing demand for pharma products.
On-time delivery gets critical when transporting healthcare products as sometimes it can be a matter of life and death. That is why business owners precisely schedule medical shipments and do not include the possibility of delays or additional stops. Moreover, many pharmaceuticals bear a short expiration period, so even minor supply chain disruptions can disable them. Working on route planning and examining all the transportation conditions beforehand is essential to avoid potential risks.
Transparency of healthcare supply chain
Transparency of medical transit has much to do with the pharmaceuticals’ expensiveness. Customers who order the drugs’ delivery are usually more prone to track the shipment or check the delivery status. If you can apply the tracking software, this can significantly simplify the transparency of the shipping. In addition, the widespread tendency of e-commerce contributed to healthcare logistics, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic. Now, people want to pick and buy their medicines just like they buy regular consumer goods. It is essential to keep an ear to the ground of online orders and constantly check if you are not running out of stock.
Healthcare logistics compliance
Compliance with the healthcare supply chain is quite strict and controlled by many instances. Breaking the regulations inevitably leads to financial losses due to the fines system and goods overexposure. Besides following the temperature control and package requirements, ensure you’ve taken care of the appropriate recordkeeping and instructed the staff.
Shortages can become a recurrent problem for healthcare logistics without building an inventory management strategy. Unlike the other consumer goods categories, pharmaceuticals are considerably more vulnerable to deadstock situations. Most chemical substances cannot survive prolonged periods of storage. Do not hesitate to adopt demand forecasting, primarily if you regularly work with medical structures. Also, keep track of sales data and upgrade the inventory management software if possible.
How to ship pharmaceuticals and medical supplies?
Organizing a successful healthcare transit is impossible without following official state regulations. Sometimes, the medical shipments fail to reach the destination because of the shippers’ violations or drivers not being familiar with the rules. Before scheduling the pickup, please ensure you and your staff perform according to public regulations.
Pharmaceutical shipping is covered by the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) and concerns all the participants in the healthcare logistics process.
Cold chain strategy
Since healthcare substances are highly susceptible to temperature, following a cold chain strategy is necessary. Even a slight 2-degree temperature change during shipping can ruin pharmaceutical products. Cold chain logistics involves unique technology and appropriate transportation service to maintain the required environment throughout the shipment process.
Typically, pharmaceutical products require a temperature between 55 and 77 °F. The temperature varies depending on the drug’s chemical composition and can range from negative to positive. The priority of the cold chain is to eliminate the risk of temperature fluctuations that can irrevocably damage the product. In cases where you haven’t received specific temperature instructions, the FDA typically requires the products to be kept at controlled room temperature.
Transporting pharma products usually takes place in refrigerated trucks as they can hold the same inner temperature no matter the weather. Also, these vehicles have built-in control systems that allow you to stay updated on the trailer’s temperature and regulate it.
The reefer trailers can work separately from their traction parts and use their power source. It provides an opportunity to save the temperature inside the trailer independently of the type of vehicle hauling the trailer.
Due to their high prices, medical products fall under the threat of stealing. To avoid the loss of expensive cargo, check its security in advance. First, ensure that the healthcare goods you are shipping are only accessible to authorized personnel. You can organize it by applying access control keys for the shipment participants. Thus, no other individuals will be able to contact the transported materials. Second, consider using surveillance cameras and automated locking systems. These devices will reliably protect your cargo from any chance of theft.
Additionally, it is quite effective to use modern tracking systems. Besides being highly reliable for controlling cargo security, they also enhance your logistics performance by improving customers’ experience. Customers can easily track their shipments in real-time and receive all the necessary information about the delivery. Also, they will get informed of possible delays, so you don’t have to explain the reasons like high traffic congestion or bad weather conditions.
Proper pharmacy packaging
Packing pharmaceuticals for shipment is a responsible step. A big part of the general healthcare production is fragile and needs a careful approach when loading/unloading. Proper packaging methods will keep the medical supplies safe and ensure the contaminants’ integrity. You will also avoid possible losses of pharmaceuticals during shipment.
Usually, shippers condense healthcare units into insulated containers (crates, boxes, etc.) that are thermo-regulated and can hold the required temperature for specific periods. They as well reduce the risks of the damaging sunlight and humidity fluctuations. Sometimes, containers do not include thermal protection pieces. You can apply additional modules like thermal cargo blankets or thermal container liners. Moreover, these options are cost-efficient, reusable, and recyclable. It might be a good choice if you are concerned about eco-friendly packaging.
Some biologically active substances like hemoglobin and regenerative matters must travel in cryogenic containers capable of holding shallow temperatures.
Rotomolded cases are frequently used for shipping pharmaceuticals as they are extra tight and waterproof. This packaging will provide maximum protection and reduce the impact of highly fragile products. It is practical to use thermal rotomolded cases to prevent pharmaceuticals from contacting the outer environment.
Internal packaging is equally essential for safe pharmaceutical shipment. Consider different void fillers to stop the products from unwanted movement inside the box and vibration impact. For example, film wrappers or papers can be applied to items of lower vulnerability, while highly fragile goods have to be condensed with foams or other bulk fillers. Besides the original manufacturer’s packaging, healthcare products need to be doubly secured, especially regarding liquid substances in glass bottles.
Since liquid pharmacy substances are often bottled, it is essential to follow a specific sequence while packing them. To keep the medicines from leaking, seal the bottles into bags or wrap them with bubble film. When placing bottles inside the box, verify you’ve taken up the extra space with void fillers like foam or packing peanuts. Shippers often use double-boxing to exclude vibrations and oscillations during movement. If you apply double-boxing, ensure the outer box is also bulked with inner fillers. While finally sealing the box, do not forget to place the “Fragile” stamp on top.
After packaging, carriers often stack containers with healthcare goods onto pallets. Palletizing is one of the most reliable methods of organizing the full cargo inside the truck. However, condensation processes inside reefer trailers can ruin the regular wooden or havoc pallets. That is why the healthcare industry uses thermal pallets because of the additional layer of thermal protection they provide. Thermal pallets often include a barcode system that simplifies tracking activities. If you haven’t managed to find thermal pallets for your shipment, you can consider applying thermal pallet covers which are sustainable to temperature fluctuations.
Labeling healthcare products
Labeling requirements for pharmaceuticals are comparatively detailed and include information about various characteristics. Before scheduling a shipment, checking if you have labeled the goods appropriately is crucial.
First, ensure that the pharmaceutical label has the official product name. Second, see if the sticker provides data about the purpose of use and warnings. Third, verify to list all the active and inactive ingredients on the label.
Typically, pharmaceutical brands also contain a record of possible allergens or unusual components. Occasionally you can meet some particular directions mentioned on the label. The Food and Drugs Administration does not typically require pharma companies to name the country of origin of every ingredient – the manufacturing locations should be listed instead.
The medical label’s design must contain legible text and exclude typographical errors or unknown abbreviations. It will considerably reduce the risk of transporting the wrong production.
If you pack the pharmaceutical units into bigger containers, ensure to label the boxes and represent the list of contents additionally.
Shipping large medical equipment
Delivering medical equipment may seem quite challenging, as it is often oversized and heavy. Examples of frequently ordered medical equipment are medical furniture (beds, tables), particular computers, lasers, scanners, surgical devices, laboratory supplies, etc.
Before scheduling the shipment of medical devices, it is crucial to examine their type and properties precisely. Medical equipment units vary considerably in size, weight, shape, and fragility. Having all the necessary information in mind will much facilitate planning your shipments, especially when it is urgent and requires fast organization. Also, ensure you have analyzed the storage environment for your cargo. It might be of high humidity or not capable of holding necessary temperatures.
A big part of medical equipment usually contains fragile components like lenses, gauges, and mirrors. Thus, we recommend disassembling the equipment unit into smaller pieces and packing them separately. While stable medical equipment parts can be loaded into regular corrugated boxes, simple crating and surrounding fragile components with a bit of inner filling is not enough. Pieces containing glass and other breakable elements have to be condensed with significant amounts of bulk fillers or foams so that they are isolated from any shaking and vibration during transportation.
When planning regular medical equipment shipments, you can consider applying permanent packaging. Since you can use this packaging multiple times, you will remain cost-effective in healthcare logistics. Moreover, endless packaging can contain your logos or marks to identify it during future shipments.
After proper packing is completed, boxes with medical equipment parts should be additionally fixed by applying custom blocking and bracing designed to minimize the risk of cargo displacement inside the truck. Besides, if the medical equipment is heavy, please verify there is an opportunity to use the ramps and special supportive appliances to perform the safe loading and unloading.
Due to the high cost of medical equipment, it is reasonable to review the possibility of insuring it. Even if you have taken care of all the preparations and safely packed your items, there is still a threat of damage caused by external factors or getting into road accidents. Healthcare devices are usually of high complexity, so the loss of a single part can disable the whole unit. In case of breaking, uninsured medical equipment is most likely to be denied at the delivery, and the reimbursement will cost a fortune.
Furthermore, buyers typically expect to track valuable equipment units through logistics tools. By applying tracking systems, you will convince the customer of the safety and reliability of the shipment. Access to real-time navigation improves customer experience and provides you with critical insight into operational gaps and possible areas to review. Tracking systems also significantly modernize medical equipment delivery by forecasting obstacles that can emerge throughout the transit.
Which transportation modes suit medical supply delivery?
You can ship pharmaceuticals using prevalent transportation modes. They include:
- Full truckload (FTL) shipping offers the entire truck devoted only to your cargo. The FTL mode can be a good choice if you plan to move considerable amounts of medical items. It also perfectly meets the on-time delivery requirement by excluding any additional stops.
- Less than truckload (LTL) shipping suggests cheaper transportation due to sharing the truck space with other customers and delivering goods to several places.
When deciding on the appropriate shipping mode, remember that a massive part of pharmaceuticals has to travel in reefer trucks or trailers. FTL and LTL modes provide cold chain services. However, it is better to verify the availability of refrigerated vehicles in advance. Reefer shipping is a nearly irreplaceable option when it comes to healthcare logistics.
Refrigerated trucks are equipped with thermal control systems and remain at the required temperatures throughout the shipment. They are also independent of weather conditions and the influence of light, so you can be sure your pharmaceuticals resist climate fluctuations.
How long does it take to ship pharmaceuticals?
Since the delivery of the pharmaceuticals is usually time-sensible, you will considerably benefit from preliminary calculations. To work out the approximate duration needed to deliver healthcare products, you need to count various components that can revise the time frames of your transit. Firstly, it depends on the shipping distance – the longer it is, the bigger the interval.
Secondly, traffic congestion, seasonality, or weather conditions can also impact shipment duration. For example, moving cargo in terms of the peak season is more time-consuming and often results in delays. Traffic jams often depend on shipping season specifics and weather fluctuations. While organizing the healthcare logistics process, please try to forecast possible circumstances that can change your shipping plan.
How much does shipping medical supplies cost?
The costs of healthcare shipments vary according to all the supply chain criteria. You have to count the distance, duration, size of your cargo, and the truck service you’ve chosen. The healthcare industry is comparatively expensive to ship due to the high prices of its products and special reefer services recommended for moving medical supplies. However, it can remain cost-effective with advanced planning and preliminary calculations. With GoShip, you can compare quotes from multiple carriers in a few clicks.
Healthcare Logistics with GoShip
The best way to calculate healthcare logistics costs is to fill in shipment information and compare quotes. With GoShip, you can compare quotes from multiple carriers in real-time.
- Instant and free freight quotes
- Full truckload and less-than-truckload shipping services
- 24/7 shipment tracking
- A self-service platform for online shipment booking
- Refrigerated shipping