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Pharmaceutical Manufacturing and Packing Sourcer

On the Move

News that a major courier business has launched a specialist healthcare transportation division, to focus on providing secure courier services for medical products and medicines, is a clear indicator that this is a rapidly-growing sector.

Medical couriers are responsible for transporting anything from prescription medicine and vaccines, to emergency blood samples and vital organs needed for surgery. Deliveries must be completed safely and efficiently – in some instances in highly controlled temperature conditions – and always with a guarantee of the shortest possible timeframe. The importance of having an efficient transportation process is highlighted by recent research undertaken by the National Patient Safety Agency, which identified transport issues as one of the most common causes of patient safety incidents in pathology (1).

Secure Investment

According to TNT Healthcare, industry analysts are predicting that medical transportation services are set to expand by 12 per cent over the next few years. For courier companies looking to identify a secure longer-term revenue stream, the sector represents a wealth of opportunities. E-commerce might be booming now, but retail sales typically fluctuate wildly compared with the constant need for medical transportation. Taking into account the UK’s ageing population and expected birth rate rises over the next two decades, medical courier services is likely to prove a prosperous business to be in.

In addition to stable and growing demand, increasing numbers of primary healthcare providers – NHS Trusts and hospitals in particular – are outsourcing the provision of transportation services to specialists and are instead focusing on patient care as a priority. This is because of mounting pressures on cost reduction within the NHS, leading to outsourcing strategies in all aspects of their service provision. As a result, the numbers of medical couriers in operation are rising.

Regulatory Compliance

Entry into the medical courier sector is not as straightforward as it can be with other industries. Companies are required to comply with a strict set of industry regulations, which are essential to safeguard the interests of consumers. This legislation comes from within the industry itself, and the end customers – hospitals and medical surgeries – expect that medical transportation providers will adhere to safety requirements and will have undergone specialist training.

For example, medical couriers should comply with specific Clinical Pathology Accreditation laboratory pathology standards. These include the Blood Quality and Safety Regulations, and the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency's guidelines for the movement of finished blood products.

In addition to this, any packaging provided by the courier company for the distribution of samples – such as blood, urine or cell samples – should be compliant with packaging guidelines for UN3373 shipments. The UN3373 standard specifies that packaging must be secure within a pressuretested secondary container, outer box, absorbant sachet and/or sealed in a tamper-proof mailing envelope. Adhering to these specifications ensures samples are protected and that potential problems from leakages can be minimised.

In addition to regulatory compliance, medical couriers are required to undergo specialist Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) training, which is certified by the World Health Organization. Once a courier has completed training at this level, they should understand the importance of the consignments they are responsible for transporting, plus the implications of non-compliance with minimum time, quality and safety standards.

Technological Tools

A key tool in the medical courier’s armoury is technology, and feedback from those already offering such logistics services verifies this. According to one company’s reports, when vetting prospective suppliers, the area its customers are most concerned with validating is the technology infrastructure behind the services being provided. Customers want to know whether their samples can be booked in online and tracked in real-time from pick-up to destination. They also want to be able to prove that a delivery has taken place, and to run reports showing any variance between estimated and actual delivery times.

Real-time data capture is critical for medical courier companies to be able to identify what a driver is doing minute by minute and, therefore, have the ability to schedule job allocations more efficiently. A mistake in the process can mean the difference between life and death for a patient, and being able to capture data automatically not only reduces paperwork and administration, it eliminates the incidence of errors.

Choosing a Courier

For pharmaceutical companies, hospitals and laboratories looking for a medical courier, there are a number of prerequisites with which to evaluate a potential provider. The following are essential requirements:

  • Service reliability and the ability to demonstrate a strong track record in this area, with reports showing the achievement of relevant key performance indicators
  • Evidence to prove that the integrity of consignments being carried is maintained
  • Ability for customers using the service to independently track parcels from start to finish with an audit trail in real-time
  • Evidence that drivers have been GMP trained to a certain standard and adhere to minimum regulatory requirements
Conclusion

When times are tough, the businesses that survive are the ones able to continually innovate and re-invent themselves. Couriers are no exception to this, and the increasing numbers of medical transport providers in operation are bringing ever-more essential services to their communities.

Reference

1. National Patient Safety Agency, National Reporting and Learning Service

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David Upton, Managing Director at DA Systems Ltd, founded the company in January 1999 after identifying a need among transport and logistics companies for real-time proof of delivery software to support the growing e-commerce delivery business. Today, DA Systems has blue chip customers in the transport, retail, healthcare and field service sectors and has built a reputation for continuously providing innovative solutions that drive profitability, sustain competitive advantage and maximise revenues. Prior to starting his own company, David was a software developer and business consultant at Fleetway Systems, where he was responsible for developing and integrating mobile data applications for customers worldwide.
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