The Pandemic Is Far From Done, and The New Era Of Healthcare Logistics Is Far From Beginning

COVID-19 threw the healthcare system into disarray. Due to the epidemic, doctors, hospitals, laboratories, and other shippers required a new type of partner to assist them in providing patient care: logistics firms.

“Prior to this, our clients generally requested that we focus on the ‘final mile,’ which addresses only a percentage of their business concerns. We are now collaborating across the entire supply chain “UPS Healthcare Marketing and Strategy Vice President Dan Gagnon.

Shipping Difficulties Required Leadership Throughout the Chain

The pandemic created new worldwide conditions for healthcare makers, distributors, and retailers, who were required to address the complex and critical needs of hospitals, governments, and patients in ways never seen before.

Distributing vaccines globally became a mammoth operations and logistics puzzle—not just a transportation one. And the complexity of end-to-end cold chain management was exacerbated by the introduction of novel mRNA frozen vaccines.

Understanding and achieving client regulatory needs, establishing freezers and cold storage facilities, and assuring the quality and visibility of time- and temperature-sensitive deliveries all needed greater collaboration and increased leadership on the part of logistics partners.

UPS has firsthand experience with this change, having delivered over one billion vaccination doses to over 110 countries with a 99.9 percent on-time delivery rate. To understand more, please read our news release, The Faces Of A Billion.

“Governments and ministries of health faced unique supply chain challenges as a result of the pandemic, which required UPS Healthcare logistics experience to plan, implement, and execute. It has not only revolutionized how our industry responds to public health catastrophes, but also serves as a lesson that will affect how we do business in the future “Gagnon stated.

Logistics Requirements Remain High as Global Demands Continue to Rise Continue

Worldwide, pharmaceutical manufacturers, clinical research institutions, and distributors continue to work on novel variant strains, clinical trials, and booster programs. The virus’s global reach has only served to better prepare the healthcare profession for speedier, more dependable execution in locations ranging from densely populated metropolis like Tokyo to relatively distant areas like Greenland.

According to Global Industry Analysts Inc., the US healthcare pharmaceutical warehousing supply chain management market will reach $1 billion by the end of 2021, while China’s will reach $192.9 million by the end of 2026. In this new era of healthcare logistics, growth in Canada, Japan, Europe, Germany, and other major countries demonstrates the potential for more complicated demands.

To ensure a sustainable supply chain that rises to the occasion and withstands the final kilometers of COVID-19, healthcare shippers and manufacturers should fortify their operations with expanded visibility tools, more technologically advanced transportation and storage, and improved regulatory brokerage.

Three Efforts to Create a Modern, Sustainably Managed Healthcare Supply Chain

1. Leverage technology to improve supply chain management and operations

Shippers, suppliers, and logistics providers require systems that enable them to communicate excessively in the present environment. Every link in the supply chain has to know where their shipments are, in what condition they are, and whether they will arrive on time and in the condition specified.

On-package and in-storage GPS sensor tracking solutions assist increase readiness, security, performance, sales, and reputation. The ability to monitor real-time and respond quickly and strategically to opportunities, market changes, and global health requirements will be vital in this new era of healthcare logistics—even for small shippers.

Not only is this visibility critical for evaluating quality, operational health, and supplier performance, but it can also be predictive in detecting underperforming shipping lanes, assisting with cash management, reducing expenses, and mitigating risk in general.

UPS Healthcare offers a portfolio of service options supported by technology to create a fast lane for your critical healthcare shipments. With more than 10 million square feet of high-tech and healthcare-compliant warehousing worldwide and the unmatched tracking capabilities of UPS® Premier, UPS Healthcare offers a portfolio of service options supported by technology to create a fast lane for your critical healthcare shipments.

2. Enlist the assistance of regulatory specialists with global reach to facilitate the establishment of complex, time-consuming connections

Supply chain costs account for between 50% and 60% of the total expenditures of a typical healthcare organization. The time and resources required to manage and resolve changing product safety and regulatory requirements can cost millions, much more so as globalization of supply chains accelerates.

It is so expensive as a result of the highly specialized nature of healthcare supply chains. For example, storage and transportation requirements vary by product and delivery location, and country-specific rules may apply. Multiply it by 200+ countries and territories, and the investment in human capital (and, well…regular capital) becomes enormous.
And, as COVID-19 progresses, healthcare producers, laboratories, and other shippers will face an onslaught of demands and crucial patient needs. Understanding regulation will be the first of their concerns, but it should be the last.

Rather than recreating the wheel each time, enlist the assistance of logistics suppliers with experience in healthcare and regulatory compliance. The professionals are familiar with the product, the regulators, and the delivery needs, and can implement a worldwide solution on a local level, ensuring that customers are satisfied regardless of who or where they are.

UPS is already collaborating with local officials to assist the continuing globalization of healthcare logistics through its public affairs offices in over 220 countries.

3. Maintain company continuity in this new era of healthcare logistics by hoping for the best but preparing for the worst

If the last two years have taught us anything, it is that “plan then test” is a vital slogan for critical supply chains in healthcare that desire to perform in the face of adversity.

For example, prior to vaccine approval in the first quarter of 2020, governments invested extensively in securing and distributing personal protective equipment. With production at capacity, airlines grounded, and hospital professionals battling for life, the supply chain was put under tremendous strain. Charter flights, which typically cost $300,000 per flight, were going for $1.3 million. And, despite best attempts, necessary supplies were unable to exit the ramps.

Numerous governments, manufacturers, and distributors recognized the critical need of having robust, proactive business continuity strategies. Having a solid plan in place to procure supplies, labor, and necessary assets cannot be a lifeline; it must be the norm in today’s environment. Because while the pandemic continues, it is vital to provide critical, life-saving care to patients.

Patient-Centered Logistics is the Way of the Future in Healthcare Logistics

Providing more patients with what they need, when they need it, will take on increasing significance in the coming years. Meeting more complex requirements, addressing globalization, and managing the complexities of our interconnected supply chain will require continued collaboration between manufacturers, suppliers, and logistics companies—all of whom now play a larger role in assisting providers in providing high-quality patient care.

COVID-19 is not yet complete. And for the foreseeable future, the virus will almost certainly require annual or biannual supplements. Despite the hard reality of that schedule, UPS Healthcare is inspired by the pandemic—prepared to address problems and propel the company forward into this new era of healthcare logistics. To succeed, we must maintain a sustainable, collaborative supply chain that provides for all stakeholders over this difficult path ahead.