How Logistics Sparks the Healthcare Revolution

The need for complex logistics support is another reminder that personalized medicine requires a multi-faceted approach from professionals in many disciplines.

There is a revolution taking place in healthcare delivery.

Patient-centred care is changing the way that professionals think about health and its management, which is reshaping healthcare organisations and their funding structures.

The revolution is all about putting patients and their individual needs at the centre of healthcare systems.

The potential benefits of this revolution are enormous, but none of them can be delivered without a matching revolution in intelligent, data-rich logistics.

The Rise of Smart Medicine

Today, healthcare delivery is getting smarter.

The old patterns of standardized care that centred on hospitals and practitioner clinics are being complimented with a new philosophy of care delivered directly to the patient, tailored to individual patient needs.

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The benefits of this revolution are enormous.

 It’s a shift driven by changes in technology – and changes in the economy, too.

Medical technology is creating new therapies built not only for specific medical conditions, but also for individual patients.

Data technology is creating new ways of generating, monitoring and processing individual patient information, allowing care to be shaped on a day-to-day, even hour-to-hour basis.

As medical costs rise, patient-centred care has the potential to reduce significantly the costs of healthcare both to governments and to individuals.

Many studies focusing on chronic disease care have shown better patient outcomes from home and community care rather than hospital care.

The reasons identified are many and varied, including a reduction in secondary infections and maintenance of a more normal lifestyle.

This also frees hospital capacity, allowing for a greater focus on specialist surgery, diagnostic, acute and emergency care.

The one factor that draws all of these changes together is delivery.

Patient-centred medicine may be attractive in principle, but to become attractive in practice, there has to be logistics systems in place that are both complex and cost-effective.

This implies a change in which patients are treated in their homes, delivering care in a way that reduces the burden on the supply chain, as well as focusing on the individual needs of the end patient.

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UPS has developed this expertise in the United Kingdom by employing pharmacists and patient coordinators who deal with both hospitals and the patients, which in turn has enabled UPS to work with very short order platforms to make sure needed products are available just in time for dispensation.

Patient-centred medicine also means handling patient data from many sources – including the patients themselves.

For example, many of the new generation of cancer treatments are so personalized that they are actually based on the patient’s own cells.

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These therapies are creating a need to manage terabytes of patient data, ranging from large-scale population genomics to individual data streams derived from wearable devices or smart phone apps that are able to track vital signs in real time and advise the patient of how to maintain wellness.

Having access to rich sources of data means that UPS is able to forecast weeks, if not months, ahead of demand for a particular medicine. But this patient data is highly sensitive and must be anonymized when shared beyond the patient or their clinicians.

Acting as the interface between patient, clinician and manufacturer, UPS has developed techniques to share anonymized data so manufacturers understand the needs of patients in a way not achieved by medical records sent directly from hospitals.

A Critical Support System

Specialized, personalized care also depends on extensive systems support.

One critical area is temperature-controlled logistics, as many personalized therapies are biologic and highly temperature sensitive in nature, needing temperature management throughout the logistics chain.

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Cold-chain solutions are critical to success.

Another is manufacturing assurance, since small-volume medicines are often made at a single site.

Cold-chain solutions are critical to success and one of the things that differentiates UPS from other logistics providers.

The main challenge around biologics and many short-life medicines is the maintenance of temperature control through the supply chain, especially when there are multiple transport and handling points, whether it is components going into the manufacturer or the finished product coming out.

Planning and maintaining inventory is also extremely important in manufacturing assurance, especially if there are only one or two sites that manufacture a particular product or component of the final product.

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There are often multiple potential points of failure within our clients’ supply chains, and that means there is also a need for good back-up processes to recover from failure.

To mitigate these risks, UPS works with manufacturers to assess the entire supply chain, identifying potential points of failure and ensuring sufficient inventory downstream of failure points.

Reaching Full Potential

This need for complex logistics support is another reminder that personalized medicine requires a multi-faceted approach from professionals in many disciplines.

Greater patient empowerment and engagement is also a key to realizing the promise of patient-centred healthcare.

Patients have the most important role in modern medicine. Luckily, companies embracing this new reality are paving the path to a patient-centred future.

In fact, with UPS, that future is already here. goldbrown2


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Richard Holmes is the Managing Director of Polar Speed Distribution Ltd. Acquired by UPS in 2014, Polar Speed is an innovative provider of temperature-sensitive pharmaceutical supply chain solutions in the United Kingdom. UPS’s network throughout Europe provides healthcare companies access to a single source for logistics solutions across the continent.

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