Cold Chain Logistics: An Indispensable Element for Healthcare Industry

By | November 2, 2020

When a healthcare crisis or a pandemic like COVID-19 hits, cold chain logistics reaches to the top of the global agenda, from research for the vaccine to the human clinical trials to equipping the medical centres for the drugs they need, the supply chain is crucial. But what is next for the cold chain logistics? Before we discuss it, let us start at the beginning.

What is cold chain logistics, and why is it important?

The World Health Organization (WHO) has defined cold chain logistics as an end-to-end system of stocking and transporting vaccines at the desired temperature from the point of manufacture until the point of use. Pharmaceuticals sensitive to temperatures can become less effective or even toxic if not stored within the prescribed temperature range. The importance of cold chain logistics for the healthcare industry cannot be overstated. It is their responsibility to account for their product’s quality until its final use. The need for such temperature-specific drugs is critical for pharmaceutical industries. Unlikely, the demand for these drugs is expected to rise alongside the trends in the healthcare industry.

Pharmaceutical is an immensely crucial global sector that imports and exports drugs on a massive scale. This industry is likely to grow by $1.6 trillion by 2024 because of new medicines to treat rare diseases. Of course, the recent global pandemic is the black swan for the pharmaceutical and the wider health industry. When stock traders went off due to lockdown and quarantine periods, many companies realized their dependency on international trade to get medicines or ingredients for their medications. It also forced them to rethink and transform their supply chain model. Many pharmaceutical companies are changing their way to operate to stay relevant and afloat.

It is observed that many pharmaceuticals get damaged due to temperature changes, exposure to sunlight, humidity or other such factors. There comes the need for temperature-controlled shipments, storage and distribution to maintain the efficacy and other properties of the products. Healthcare logistics and supply chains require specialized standards to ensure prescriptions reach patients in optimal condition. That is why the delivery of life-saving medicines in times like COVID-19 relies on reliable logistics service providers who continue its services in disruptive circumstances. This is the reason healthcare cold logistics has expanded significantly. The cold chain logistics is anticipated to play an integral role in the efficiency of personalized drugs.

The importance of cold chain logistics lies within the use of technology as GPS alerts for timely dissemination of information. Transportation delays and weather changes are some unforeseen conditions where the importance of cold chain logistics for the healthcare industry serve useful to minimize huge losses. The flourishing pharmaceutical sector is also stocking cold chain logistics as there is a growing demand for temperature-controlled drugs. The cold chain logistics for the healthcare industry is making strides in temperature sensors, data logging, real-time temperature monitoring and cloud computing solutions.

Furthermore, the adoption of novel supply chain policies and technology for distribution of pharmaceuticals is acting in favour of cold chain logistics. Developing countries like India are expected to make an immense contribution to the development of cold chain logistics for the healthcare industry. The importance of cold chain logistics in a patient’s journey plays an integral role from diagnosis to adherence and the prescribed medicines that are sent through the cold chain. The increasing number of clinical trials involving blood and tissue samples and supply of certain drugs is helping realize the importance of cold chain logistics for the healthcare industry. This importance of cold chain logistics will continue to evolve as the healthcare industry is expanding. Every one in two healthcare products is delivered via a cold chain.

It’s not only in healthcare, but cold chains also provide freezing solutions to agriculture products, seafood and frozen foods to maintain the quality of the products. Besides maintaining quality, the importance of cold chain logistics is also essential for marketing, reducing transportation bottlenecks and over-capacity during peak periods. With a robust growth network and logistics experts, cold chain ensures a safe and secure supply chain when it comes to shipping. Consequently, the cold chain is regulated at every step. It helps prevent cross-contamination, product degradation, infiltration etc. to ship good quality and efficient products door-to-door.

Given the current situation, there’s no doubt the pharmaceutical industry is of global importance. It is vital that the cold chain logistics functions efficiently. With the help of leading names of logistics providers for cold chains, this industry is likely to grow and evolve. It will also become more immediate when a vaccine for COVID-19 is finally prepared. And anything that aids the transportation and delivery of healthcare essentials is something we need to be thankful for. To manage the complex supply chains spanning around the world and to develop future managers in the field of supply chain and logistics, IIM Udaipur launched the 12-months full-time MBA in logistics and supply chain management. The program is crafted in discussion with esteemed professionals from industries like e-Commerce, FMCG, retailing, manufacturing and many more domains.