The best practices in medical supplies logistics require the bar to be set at its highest level. From prescription pills to MRI scanners, there’s a wide range of products that rely on secure and safe transportation. Some have strict regulations to adhere to, and some simply have best practices. It’s always important to ensure products are delivered safely and intact, regardless of your industry. In a time where the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a surge in demand for medical supplies, the safe delivery of all healthcare products should be of the utmost priority.
Often, these products have a direct and critical impact on health. Therefore it’s mandatory there is 100% confidence in every journey to the recipient. As an example, pharmaceuticals need storing and shipping in a specific, consistent environment. They can’t be compromised by external factors as their chemical balance can become jeopardized. Though this can render the drug less effective, it could cause harmful effects. It’s not just medicine that requires special attention either. Consider the recipients of mobility supplies, such as hospital beds and wheelchairs.
There are many considerations when transporting medical supplies. But, there’s also a lot of expertise out there to help you and your healthcare business. Make sure you’re fully prepared and compliant, whatever your healthcare offering, to transport your supplies safely.
Here are some examples of specific best practices in medical supplies logistics.
Pharmaceuticals include any medicine that is designed to work with chemicals in the body:
- Over-the-counter drugs (medicines that consumers can order for themselves).
- Prescription drugs (requires a pharmacist to dispense the drug, from the order of a physician).
Packaging requirements for pharmaceuticals:
The packaging for prescription drugs is highly regulated. They require specific information, labels and inserts. The container must be tamper-evident (such as using blister packs and child-resistant lids). Pharmaceuticals can be sensitive to temperature changes, humidity, light, shock, and vibration. Therefore, the material needs to be robust, acting like a protective layer to prevent physical damage. The exterior packaging should be inconspicuous, not to draw attention to the contents.
What about non-prescription medication, like aspirin or ibuprofen? Over-the-counter medication doesn’t need to follow specific packaging rules. However, in order to assure integrity, package them well to reduce any exposure to extreme temperatures or product damage.
Shipping requirements for pharmaceuticals:
Shipping over-the-counter medication doesn’t need to adhere to specific shipping regulations, though consider requiring an adult signature on arrival, to ensure a safe delivery. For distributing prescriptions, there are strict rules and regulations set by Health Canada that are regularly updated in response to the changes caused by the pandemic. For example, some provinces require that medication is signed for and handled by trained employees. Medication can be sensitive to temperature. In this case, they must remain in a defined temperature range to maintain integrity.
Two common ways to regulate a cooler temperature:
- An active environment
Example: a refrigerated truck to keep all items at a specific temperature.
- A passive environment
Example: an insulated container to maintain a consistent climate for individual packages.
Surgical instruments include tools or devices designed to carry out actions during a surgery or operation. Common equipment includes scissors, forceps, clamps and scalpels.
Packaging requirements for surgical instruments:
With surgical instruments, it’s highly important they are protected from any foreign organisms. Sterilization is performed before use, but preventing contamination is always a priority. Dust, dirt and even air can all jeopardize the cleanliness of these tools. Often, they’re kept in vacuum-sealed, tamper-evident plastic pouches (known as peel packs). Exterior packaging should be sturdy and safe, to prevent individual items and interior packaging from any physical damage. In best practice, even the external packaging can be sterile to protect the internal packaging to a greater degree. Sterile totes can be used to transport critical sterile equipment to hospitals for surgeries, or for outbound transfers from one hospital to another.
Shipping requirements for surgical instruments:
There aren’t specific guidelines, but there are best practices a delivery provider should follow.
The integrity of sensitive packages can be protected with some planning before transit. Providers can establish the fastest transit route and the most ideal shipping schedules to reduce the impact of any external factors. While in-transit, It’s important to take extra precautions in certain environments. For example, if the environment is humid, the packaging should be checked for condensation. The same goes for items exposed to two varying temperatures (like air-conditioned and very hot environments).
Also simply known as “medical devices”, diagnostic equipment is used to diagnose, monitor or treat a medical condition. Equipment can be large, heavy and complex, such as MRI scanners and x-ray machinery.
Packaging requirements for diagnostic equipment:
Packaging for any item of scale takes skill and attention, ensuring it’s protected and secure throughout its journey. Packaging should be considerate of machine complexity and the significance of timeliness. Keep it simple for quick unpacking and easy assembly on arrival. Delivery providers can help equip your items with suitable packaging materials and equipment. Examples are fridge carts, skids, hydraulic carts, an automatic stair crawler, and moving pads and straps.
Shipping requirements for diagnostic equipment:
Similar to a lot of medical products, diagnostic equipment is often shipped with a sense of urgency. For expedited shipments, it’s important to work with a delivery provider that can offer direct delivery. Specialized delivery providers have skilled drivers who go beyond transportation. They can offer unpacking, positioning and assembly too. Trained employees can offer a white-glove service – powering and testing equipment to ensure the machinery is ready for use.
Shipping personal protective equipment (PPE) during a pandemic.
During the COVID-19 outbreak, the healthcare industry has witnessed an unparalleled demand for PPE to protect frontline workers in hospitals and long-term care homes, and to many other places like our local supermarkets. Items such as medical masks, gloves and gowns are in constant demand, and deliveries cannot afford to be compromised. To assure they’re providing the utmost protection, the integrity and sterileness of PPE must be protected by rigid packaging and the same safe shipment practices as other medical supplies.
Medical and mobility supplies
These are supplies that assist with mobility or medical rehabilitation. Examples are hospital beds, wheelchairs and mobility scooters. While these need less maintenance than machinery, they’re often bulky and require specific services. Hospital beds are particularly in demand at the moment as those supplies are vital to treat patients.
Packaging requirements for mobility supplies:
With their purpose in mind, these items are often very durable, so they need less protection than fragile and complex products. But, for best practices in medical supply logistics, the packaging still requires specific consideration. Due to their size, weight and versatile requirements, these supplies need solid packaging for stability and protection. Interior padding, including blocking and bracing, ensures the supplies remain secure and anchored. Often, a pallet is necessary to assist with maneuvering these items around a warehouse and in-transit.
Shipping requirements for mobility supplies:
There are no particular requirements for shipments, but it’s important to think of transportation beyond the vehicle. Delivery providers can also take these shipments one step further than simply delivering. Assistance is often required to position heavy items in a convenient end-location. In this case, a two-man team can be available from the delivery provider. Another consideration is that many mobility items are intended to hold the weight of a person. Therefore, it’s extremely important they’re correctly assembled before use. By offering a white-glove service, they can unwrap, test and dispose of packaging materials, so the product is safe and ready for immediate use.
An additional best practice for medical logistics
Medical products can be highly profitable. So, there’s an increased risk of theft during transit in this industry. Unfortunately, more medical products end up in the black market than expected. Theft in-transit see millions of dollars worth being stolen, then sold illegally. This is mostly noticed in pharma products, with about 75% of thefts reported to occur in-transit. Though due to high price tags, other medical equipment is also at risk. Consider a delivery provider that can offer strictly enforced theft-prevention strategies. To transport your products, look for
healthcare logistics best practices like these:
- GPS tracking capabilities
- Background checks for all drivers and anyone else with visibility into shipment information.
- Employee training in cargo awareness and loss prevention
- Ensuring drivers can contact the delivery provider, and vice versa, at all times.
- The ability to keep routes direct. Non-stop if possible, otherwise a lengthy route to start with.
- No handoffs to third-parties, reducing the risk of theft, loss or damage.
Following these regulatory requirements and best practices will help you make all the considerations needed to protect the integrity of your medical supplies shipments. Taking the utmost care in your logistics process doesn’t have to be complicated. Working with a trusted service provider can help you make the process efficient and secure. That way, you can deliver with care to the people counting on your medical supplies shipments.