Ask an Expert: Evolving Healthcare Solutions for the Road Ahead
Jason HernDirector, Healthcare Strategy & Sales
Jason is Purolator’s leading healthcare solutions expert with extensive experience in supply chain management, transportation and logistics. His proven record of leading innovative, customer-centric initiatives to drive bottom-line results also includes solutions for the pharmaceutical, retail, consumer packaged goods, agricultural, eCommerce, and high-tech industries.
Due to COVID-19, the healthcare industry is very much in the spotlight these days as it faces disruption and transformation In this segment of our Ask An Expert series, Jason tackles the challenges and opportunities posed by the ongoing pandemic. He shares his thoughts on the latest healthcare solutions, as well as future changes awaiting the industry, including the increasing role of the federal government.
What has been COVID-19’s biggest impact on the healthcare industry’s supply chain?
The fact that most of our medical supplies are produced offshore has been significant. Canada is in competition with dozens of nations for the same products, which are being made by a limited number of suppliers. Often these products are manufactured in Asia, resulting in longer transit times and expensive air shipments.
In addition, the law of supply and demand kick in, so we’re seeing countries, including our own, paying far more for certain supplies than we would during “normal” times.
In my opinion, the industry has not coped well. Without the concerted effort of Health Canada to bring supplies from China, there would have been a larger supply issue.
What’s the main concern of healthcare customers during the ongoing pandemic?
The potential shortage of medical supplies tops the list. A “matter of life and death” isn’t an exaggeration if you think about it! If anything, the pandemic has simply underscored the critical role played by the world’s healthcare companies. Now more than ever, there are considerations to ensure that you can follow best practices when it comes to medical supplies.
What in your opinion will be the longer-term changes to the industry?
The future will be very interesting. All signs point to a major push to near-shore manufacturing of critical medical supplies.
Also, not insignificantly, there will likely be an increasing government role in the months ahead. The federal government will strive to ensure that there is a domestic source for critical Personal protective equipment (PPE) through contracts with manufacturers, or through incentives. This will extend to the manufacturing of critical drugs including vaccines.
While there is vaccine manufacturing here in Canada, these companies are headquartered outside of the country. By creating proprietary arrangements with manufacturers, our government can ensure that Canadians are among the first benefactors in a time of crisis.
All of these changes will require highly customized healthcare solutions that reflect each customer’s unique needs.
What makes shipping healthcare supplies a unique challenge for a delivery provider?
Most healthcare supplies are manufactured in Asia, so there’s always the potential for strained supply chains. But we get a lot of our clothing, toys, appliances and electronics from there, so that doesn’t necessarily make healthcare distinct.
What defines good healthcare solutions are the dual needs for reliability and speed. There are several delivery services that are absolutely instrumental to supporting healthcare companies, such as temperature control to ensure product efficacy, tracking to ensure optimal visibility and transparency, in addition of course, to expedited shipping.
What healthcare solutions did Purolator provide during the crisis?
We introduced priority service for all healthcare-related products specifically to address the urgent need for PPE. Every step of our delivery process was reviewed and assessed. That prioritization was executed across all of our business units – not just within our courier network.
Through our partnership with Health Canada, we’ve delivered to every hospital and care facility in the country. Before we began to ship medical supplies like masks, gloves, and gowns, our Global Supply Chain Solutions team developed creative direct-to-hospital and long-term care facilities express solutions to reduce the time needed to get these critical products to the front line.
We also responded by working with our medical supply customers to align all suppliers to a set of accepted safe delivery procedures, included contactless delivery and deliver-to-dock rather than room-to-room within healthcare facilities. These were implemented not only to protect our employees, but also everyone in the many communities we serve.
What is Purolator doing differently for its healthcare customers?
Several healthcare solutions directly answer the needs of healthcare professionals and their customers.
We are accepting air/ocean containers and LTL or full truck-load shipments at any point of entry into Canada. Full shipments can be broken down and relabelled into essential items and then expedited to direct-to-consumers, or to the store delivery and bypass the need for distribution centre processing. We can also create a healthcare solution that includes a custom distribution plan for the rest of the shipment to meet the customer’s business needs.
Non-priority items can be warehoused so they do not clog critical pathways to end consumers.
We launched a visibility initiative integrating yellow labels and red pack products dedicated to healthcare customers only. This helps to prioritize healthcare shipments through easy identification.
A service called Healthcare Prioritization, which includes customizable solutions based on a customer’s specific needs, is a key part of our offering. Interested customers should contact their dedicated Purolator account executives for more information.
Any advice for those navigating healthcare solutions at this time?
The supply chain is changing quickly and constantly. So too must healthcare solutions. Find time each day to anticipate and plan for the things you can control.
Stay close to your customers, informing them of critical changes in your network. Don’t hesitate sharing bad news as well as good news. It’s been my experience that everyone wants to be comfortable and engaged in the changing climate. Transparency is one of the pillars of solid relationship.
Any final thoughts to share with our healthcare customers?
Yes! I want to thank our healthcare customers. Unlike any other time in recent history, healthcare is playing a central role in the lives of all Canadians. We feel privileged to be part of that success story.
Our commitment to serving our healthcare customers has absolutely galvanized all of Purolator. Our promise of OTP (on-time performance) remains consistent and steadfast, as does our long-term plan to adjust with changing needs brought on by COVID-19.