Access to End-to-End Holistic Healthcare

These cold chains now extend to a variety of industries and economies. Supply chain networks in the healthcare industry are reaching previously unseen scales and continue to grow.

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In a little more than a century, doctors and researchers advanced from treatments with bloodletting and leeches to life-saving antibiotics, vaccines and devices, turning diseases that were once a death sentence into manageable illnesses. Better medical care raised the average human lifespan from 59 to 79 years in one century.

Now we are witnessing the most advanced healthcare technology so far – cellular and genetic therapies – which deliver highly targeted, and even personalized, treatment of autoimmune and pulmonary conditions, cancers and rare diseases. These vein-to-vein developments promise to continue revolutionizing healthcare.

Delivery technology for these medicines has evolved just as profoundly as drugs themselves. More and more modern drugs require an end-to-end cold chain, from factory process to patient. To be effective, biologics must be carefully monitored and move under uncompromising and low temperatures at every stage of development and delivery. Cell and gene therapies are especially delicate due to their ultra-time and temperature life cycle and the critical nature of these complex therapies. 

High-tech advanced cold chains for healthcare logistics have emerged as one of the most valuable features of our industry. Take for example, the mass distribution of Covid vaccines that helped blunt the most destructive effects of the pandemic. Every vaccine – billions of doses – rode a cold chain for most of its journey to reach its final destination: a human patient.

These cold chains now extend to a variety of industries and economies. Supply chain networks in the healthcare industry are reaching previously unseen scales and continue to grow. However, there is still a need to be met for those communities, demographics and nations that aren’t or can’t receive equal access to necessary resources, products and benefits.

This is today’s biggest precision logistics challenge: How do supply chains reach new targeted population groups and effectively meet inflexible time demands? We see an obvious solution – the same one driving history’s waves of medical advancement: Technology.

End-to-end innovative solutions

Technological innovation in supply chains can meet the challenge of delivering precision logistics and cold chain availability to inner cities, remote populations and lower-to-middle income countries. It’s tremendously valuable for healthcare and pharmaceutical industry leaders to partner through technological innovation to improve the patient experience and the clinical supply chain.

What does innovation look like in a healthcare supply chain?

There’s the innovative technology itself, of course. Chapters can be written about the potential of drone delivery to remote areas, of super-sustainable packaging that can preserve cold medicines for days in tropical sun in an open truck bed, or on the back of a pack animal. Artificial intelligence, cloud technology, 5G networks and the Internet of Things are all converging with cold chains to benefit patients needing cures, no matter where they live.

The hand that guides the technology matters even more. Healthcare logistics network design is evolving as fast as medicine and the technology associated with it. As with most things in a complex world, simplicity is better. The best networks run with fewer handoffs, since every exchange from one shipping point or mode to another raises the risks of compromise. For this reason, global scope and scale matter – shipping medicines on one single system is safer than cobbling together disconnected networks and providers with a complexity of methods, modes and urgencies.

Healthcare logistics processes can efficiently bundle shipments to avoid excess volumes. They can also tell a customer or a patient exactly where a treatment sits among tens of millions of other shipments at any given moment. Tremendously advanced shipping management platforms enable processes to be more streamlined and problem-free. The best systems can choreograph medicine pickup and delivery, detour treatments around bottlenecks and even outmaneuver the inevitable crisis caused by weather, war, or whatever else unexpected comes along.

Cold chain processes that reduce delays save lives and reduce suffering, not to mention cost.

A good example of technology innovation

The best cold chains can prioritize healthcare packages and rush them on their own channels through complex networks and on to patients.

Think of a network within a network, one that earmarks certain packages, then upgrades them with advanced sensor technology and ensures that interventions are made when necessary. These designated deliveries speed through a priority lane in the network, enabled by highly specialized handling, enhanced visibility and strict quality control technologies. Networks like these have been one of the heroic forces behind the success of Covid vaccine deliveries, allowing healthcare logistics partners to deliver billions of doses worldwide with an infinitesimal failure rate.

Still, it’s not enough.

Vaccine delivery continues to create long-term value in future access to new drugs, but only constant new investment in innovation will give all patients everywhere the medical access they need, when they need it.

As healthcare needs around the globe grow increasingly complex, specifically with such emergent new diseases and faster degrees of spread, we’ll need continuously more sophisticated transportation logistics. We will also need networks that can be quickly executed and enabled with a reliable Quality Management System to ensure quality throughout the chain of control.

Leading cold chain providers are investing in futuristic cold storage facilities, along with high-standard, sustainable, innovative packaging and new transportation technologies. These, of course, are critical components in ensuring that biologics, pharmaceuticals, cell and gene therapies and other contemporary treatments can be safely and efficiently delivered to all corners of the globe.

Market impact of a true end-to-end cold chain

The development and delivery of the Covid vaccines was a remarkable result of public-private collaboration. The United States government synergistically worked with commercial enterprises, researchers and healthcare logistics companies to create a deliverable vaccine in only 248 days.

Moving forward, commercial and public-private collaboration will be a fundamental factor in delivering critical healthcare supplies to all communities that need them.

What is good for the patient is good for prosperity. True global expansion of the cold chain, particularly to underserved areas, unlocks health and economic benefits. Simply put, healthy populations have a greater positive impact on global markets.

Our organization supports vaccine efforts today in more than 110 countries, working across lines with governments, non-profits, aid agencies and other players key to distribution. Still, the world has 195 countries. So we continue partnering with innovators across the healthcare, pharma and technology spaces to enable a maximized end-to-end cold chain reaching all countries and their communities.

Healthier communities are prosperous communities

Global markets will grow with the increased economic activity of communities that were previously unable to contribute due to the lack of ability to maintain balance, control and remain agile when faced with unforeseen disruptions. Equitable distribution will put them on their feet. By understanding new technology, transportation logistics, partnerships and trade lanes, organizations can partner to ultimately bring completely new populations into the global economic fold.