Turning The Promise Of Healthcare Into Reality

Healthcare logistics must keep pace with scientific innovation to enable limitless possibilities.

Dirk Van Peteghem

Dirk Van Peteghem

There are two end goals that drive innovation in healthcare – extending life and improving the quality of life.

Any scientific progress in healthcare serves one or both of these pursuits.

It is difficult to predict exactly where science will go next. However, we know that the pace of innovation in the world of healthcare is quickening, and scientists will likely soon stretch the limits of what we once thought possible.

Logistics companies must innovate just as quickly.

Building on logistical science

People have tried to extend life for as long as humans have existed, but progress in the 20th century has been extraordinary.

Smallpox, which killed 400 million people in the 20th century, has been eradicated, and we are close to eliminating polio.

Since the 1990s, cancer death rates have decreased by 20 percent, and over the last 10 years, deaths from cardiovascular disease have decreased 39 percent.

Healthcare scientists have done everything possible to extend life, and logisticians have delivered these life-saving treatments to patients.

During World War II, among many other healthcare innovations, an elaborate, cold chain system to collect, store and distribute blood was established to save lives through blood transfusions.

Today, many of the new, lifesaving biopharma innovations include biologically based treatments that are temperature sensitive.

For example, a revolutionary T-cell immunotherapy is used to treat leukemia patients.

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 Once you’ve developed the science, you need the logistics.

The patient-specific T-cells must be shipped cryogenically to and from a processing facility, with no room for error, which can create significant logistics challenges.

Other new healthcare innovations focused on improving the quality of life, such as 3D-printed prosthetics and home-based kidney dialysis, have emerged.

These developments have opened up new possibilities for patients around the world. Simultaneously, these innovations spawned completely different logistics systems.

Healthcare companies must now consider alternative manufacturing methods and locations and how to ship devices, consumables and disposables to patients’ homes and to other atypical destinations.

[Also on Longitudes: The High Stakes in “Cold Chain”]

How healthcare is evolving

Several trends continue to shape the modern healthcare landscape. They include:

  • Consolidation: In the healthcare industry, 2014 was a record year for mergers and acquisitions – and with $395.8 billion in such deals as of July, 2015 has already eclipsed the full-year record of $392.4 billion set in 2014.
  • New drug approvals: In 2014, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved 53 new therapeutic drugs, surpassing the 1996 record of 51 approvals. With the industry releasing more than one new drug per week last year, healthcare logisticians faced considerable work helping bring these new products to market. This pace is unlikely to subside anytime soon.
  • Logistics challenges: Ebola was the biggest health-related news story in 2014. As Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden emphasized, a key part of protecting global health is fighting outbreaks at their origin. However, last-mile logistics in emerging-market countries are challenging, and it is often difficult to deliver temperature-sensitive vaccines and medications and ensure product efficacy hasn’t been compromised.

Great expectations

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The pace of innovation in healthcare is quickening, and scientists will stretch the limits of what we thought possible.

Patients are more involved and empowered in making decisions impacting their health – and have higher expectations for care providers and healthcare companies. They are behaving more like consumers, and new technologies give patients greater access to their personal health data.

This matters now more than ever as:

  • Life expectancy is increasing. At the same time, the prevalence of chronic diseases, such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, is growing, only heightening the demand for ongoing treatment of patients with these ailments.
  • Spending on healthcare is also mushrooming. The global middle class is expected to grow to an expected 5 billion people in 2030. As this occurs, demand for greater access and better healthcare outcomes will increase, particularly in emerging markets.

In light of these trends, one of the most significant challenges for healthcare companies is getting their products to patients while also improving the patient experience.

[Also on Longitudes: Four Trends Redefining the Healthcare Supply Chain]

What’s next?

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Healthcare is becoming more global, competitive and subject to regulatory, payer and patient scrutiny.

Healthcare is becoming more global, more competitive and more subject to regulatory, payer and patient scrutiny.

Pharmaceutical, diagnostic and medical device companies are laser-focused on scientific progress, with a goal of commercializing innovations across the world as rapidly as possible. Executing their growth plans will require effective, nimble and adaptive supply chains.

Logistics systems must handle products all the way from the manufacturing site to the last mile in compliant ways, whether that last mile is to a patient’s home in the developed world or in an emerging market.

As such, healthcare is a strategic priority at UPS. We support the innovations of healthcare manufacturers with innovative solutions, technology, an integrated global logistic network, deep supply chain expertise and a strong commitment to the industry.

UPS is helping our healthcare customers solve their most important supply chain and business problems, like expanding to new geographies, complying with rapidly changing regulations, optimizing supply chains, increasing visibility and achieving growth objectives.

What does this tell us about the road ahead for healthcare?

Once you’ve developed the science, you need the logisticsgoldbrown2

Dirk Van Peteghem is Vice President of New Product Development at UPS. Prior to this role, he served as UPS’s Vice President of Global Healthcare Strategy.

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Reprinted with permission of Longitudes, the UPS blog devoted to the trends shaping the global economy.