When a healthcare crisis hits, cold chain logistics races to the top of the global agenda. From vaccine research to clinical trials to equipping medical centers with the drugs they need, the supply chain is crucial to all citizens, not just the sick. But just what’s next for cold chain: where is the industry headed?
We’ll start at the beginning. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines cold chain as an end-to-end system of storing and transporting vaccines or healthcare products at desired temperatures from the point of manufacture to the point of use. The need for such a temperature-specific solution is critical for biopharmaceutical, vaccine and clinical trial purposes. Unsurprisingly, demand for these materials is expected to increase alongside the outsourcing trends in the healthcare industry.
Cold chain and COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic really is the black swan that has forced many global healthcare companies to rethink and transform their global supply chain model! Many are changing the way they operate in order to stay relevant – and afloat.
As the search for a vaccine continues, the need for temperature-controlled shipments has become a priority for governments, national media, health insurance and social care. It also weighs heavily on the minds of ordinary global citizens and frontline workers, as it means normalcy can be restored. This is where healthcare logistics comes into play.
Healthcare supply chains require specialized conditions and standards that need to be met by trustworthy logistics providers in order to ensure that prescriptions reach patients in optimal condition. Some of these precise conditions include temperature control, humidity levels, and security.
COVID-19 has and continues to impact communities around the world, causing supply chain backlogs, shortages in medical aid deliveries and other medical related delays. That is why the successful delivery of life-saving medicines, especially in times of COVID-19, relies heavily on a reliable logistics provider who can continue to deliver in even the most disruptive of circumstance.
For example, my team and I developed BookDoc, which is an end-to-end digital healthcare platform to connect patients and medical practitioners across Asia Pacific. Although BookDoc was established before the pandemic, the virus has made us realize the importance of linking those in need of medical solutions to healthcare professionals remotely. Malaysia was a suitable launching pad for BookDoc in Southeast Asia because of the country’s solid telecommunication infrastructure, smart phone penetration, abundance of the middle class and strong rule of law.
Cold chain logistics plays a large role in a patient’s journey from detection and diagnosis to adherence, particularly regarding prescription medication which is often sent through cold chain. It is important that prescriptions sourced far from the patient’s location arrive quickly and in perfect condition.
The significance of cold chain logistics continues to evolve as the healthcare industry grows. According to Allied Market Research, from 2011 to 2017, the number of heat-sensitive healthcare products has increased by 45%. This means that one in two healthcare products is shipped via cold chain. Additionally, there has been an increase in the demand for biopharmaceutical products at a higher rate than the demand for chemical drugs. The growth in demand for vaccines has also propelled the total sales volume of temperature-controlled pharmaceutical products in Asia Pacific, which is double the rate of the pharmaceutical industry as a whole.
In 2018, global sales of biotechnology medicines and biological products were estimated at more than US$300 billion. These high-value pharmaceutical products are mostly shipped through cold chain across the entire distribution network worldwide.
And of course, Asia Pacific’s ever-growing population is what drives the demands for medical support and cold chain shipping in the region. According to World Meters, the current population in Asia Pacific stands at 4.46 billion, with the world population at 7.8 billion. This implies that Asia Pacific accounts for over 56% of the global population, which heavily influences the region’s consumption of food and healthcare products and services.
It’s not only about healthcare, either. Cold chain also applies to the freezing solutions required to maintain the quality and shelf life of products such as fresh agricultural produce, seafood, and frozen foods. Besides maintaining quality, cold chain is also essential for extending the period of marketing, avoiding over capacity and reducing transport bottlenecks during peak periods. In many of the above cases, FedEx has been able to step in when smaller supply chain managers or logistics companies were unable to fulfill their usual quotas.
With their robust global network and logistics experts who understand the nature of critical supply chains and cold chain needs, FedEx Express ensures that customers experience convenience and peace of mind when it comes to shipping.
Given the current climate, it is so critical that the cold chain logistics industry functions efficiently and reliably. With the help of logistics providers like FedEx, the industry is expected to continue to evolve and grow. And anything that can aid the healthcare sector with rapid transportation and delivery of essential pharmaceuticals during these trying times is something to be thankful for.