CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly
January 17, 2020
Forward Thinking

Report: Logistics vital to evolving medical supply chain

DHL/American Airlines Cargo study details the future of medical logistics in Latin America and offers four solutions to support the development of "personalized medicine." 

The rise of targeted or "personalized" medicine is presenting new challenges—and opportunities—for the supply chain, especially for those servicing Latin America, according to a study from DHL Global Forwarding and American Airlines Cargo, released July 9.

Titled "Patients, Processes and Partnerships: The Path to Personalized Medicine in Latin America," the report provides a detailed look at the future of medical logistics in the region and offers four solutions to support the development of personalization. 

Personalized medicine, also known as targeted or precision medicine, allows physicians to pinpoint a patient's molecular profile and suggest the right therapy, according to the report's authors. Factors such as gender, weight, and DNA are all considered to tailor treatments according to each person's needs. Although the approach provides a more targeted way to treat patients, it also makes it impractical to ship large pallets to set locations, the authors also said.

"With personalized medicine, companies will need to deliver solutions directly to people rather than to institutions, which will change how we view—and transport—medical treatments," according to Patricia Cole, managing director, Same Day & LifeConEx, for DHL Global Forwarding. "This shift will present a huge challenge to the already complex logistics involved in delivering pharmaceutical solutions, many of which have very strict—and varied—temperature and timing requirements to remain effective. We believe the success of personalized medicine will rely on how well the logistics industry responds to the operational issues involved."

Regional challenges in Latin America further complicate the matter, according to the report. 

"... healthcare in Latin America is as diverse as its people and geographic terrain. There are no regional standards for medical shipments, so each logistics provider must work to meet each country's regulations, such as sterilization labeling, transportation modes in varied terrains, accessibility to well-equipped facilities and qualified doctors," the authors explained. "Economic and political stability also play important roles in how healthcare is delivered within countries. Even when countries offer top-notch healthcare systems, not all residents have equal access to the same resources: hospitals, medical personnel, technology, or even simple Internet access."

The report identified four solutions to address the problem and help advance the potential of personalized medicine: 

  • Data analytics for cold chain intelligence. These include artificial intelligence, self-learning systems, data mining, and pattern recognition solutions that can learn from a constant stream of information.
  • Innovations in technology. Many carriers are already investing to build a connected fleet. Those that are more forward-looking are also looking to experiment with semi-autonomous and electric vehicles, or with sharing platforms. Other examples include integrating pilot use cases for drones that will enable further exploration of emergency logistics response tactics, particularly for last-mile considerations in precision medicine distribution.
  • Treatment-based logistics and distribution programs. This involves the integration of patient and shipment coordination for specific disease treatments, allowing health providers and logistics providers to collaborate to deliver a patient-centric experience.
  • Increased collaboration between forwarders and carriers. Between them, forwarders and airline carriers can deliver end-to-end logistics; deeper collaboration will help them overcome the challenges in personalized medicine logistics.

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