By UrbanFox on May 28, 2020 10:01:04 AM
The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated why we cannot take our healthcare infrastructure for granted. In Singapore, even our robust and well-prepared healthcare systems could have overheated, if not for the timely intervention by the government.
When healthcare institutions have to simultaneously care for those infected, medical emergencies and routine procedures or consultations, everything we can do to relieve the pressure helps.
Medicine delivery is one such idea that is simple, yet effective. It frees up resources and more importantly, reduces the risk of infection, especially for those with weaker immune systems, by sparing them the need to visit healthcare institutions unnecessarily.
Thankfully, many healthcare organisations are already offering medicine delivery in some form, with 43,500 deliveries made in the first half of April alone, more than five times the number of deliveries made in January. At UrbanFox, we managed 300% more medicine deliveries during this period, as more patients and caregivers opt for this service.
Keeping It Cool
The two key challenges preventing us from fully realising the benefits from medicine delivery are the need to keep some medication at a certain temperature range to ensure its efficacy, and the accountability required to ensure the medicine has been properly handled and delivered to the right person as mandated by the strict regulations for pharmaceutical products.
In Singapore’s hot climate, we are tapping into our industry’s leadership in cold chain logistics to keep medicine cool. But it is not as straightforward as using the air-conditioned containers we have now to hold medication. The XPS or EPS thermal material used for most thermal packaging, which relies on water gel to absorb heat, is not reliable enough to temperature fluctuations, even between an air-conditioned room to an outdoor environment here.
Our partner va-Q-tec uses boxes which are made of Vacuum Insulation Panel (VIP), a material that has been proven to have the best performance insulation properties among its competitors, with up to 10 times the insulation effectiveness of other commonly-used materials.
The boxes are also made with Phase Change Material (PCM), which is a cooling unit that provides cooling properties in the same way that a power bank provides electricity. When placed in a freezer or chiller overnight, it will develop cooling properties and can be packed together with other products to keep them at a desired temperature range.
While frozen water-based gels will only last for two days before it loses its strength, PCM can maintain the temperature even in liquid form, and even extend product life by another two days.
UrbanFox currently uses this technology to deliver at two common temperature ranges for medicine, 2°c to 8°c and 15°c to 25°c, all without any form of electricity needed to maintain the temperature.
Keeping It Visible
As with the handling of many pharmaceutical products, logistic companies have to adhere to the strict regulations required and adopt best practices in the storage, security, traceability and safety of medication when managing medicine deliveries.
This is an area where an omnichannel logistics provider like us can play to our strengths, especially with our e-commerce delivery expertise. Our fulfilment centre model is perfectly placed to deliver personalised and small packages, and our tech-based approach provides an overview of an item at all points of its journey right up to the doorstep, ensuring traceability.
Our model also allows us to handle any missed deliveries effectively and responsibly. Like with the usual e-commerce parcels, we can return the item to the warehouse for delivery on another day or to the pharmacy if required, and recipients can schedule another delivery slot easily through our process, ensuring that the accountability and the integrity of the medication is always retained.
Keeping It Versatile
There is still a lot of value we can extract from using an omnichannel logistics approach to medicine delivery, beyond COVID-19. The model and its ability to support reverse logistics means we can explore how we can support clinical trials or routine medical checks by facilitating the taking of biological samples to and from a person’s home. This saves them the need to travel just to do so and the time spent managing such sample collections, especially for procedures that doesn’t need a medical professional to perform.
As the medical community and patients grow more confident in medicine delivery, we can start leveraging the omnichannel approach right from the start. Much like how we are providing logistical support from pallets to parcels for many brands today, we can help to break down the bulk shipments from the pharmaceutical manufacturer we are storing onsite and deliver individually to patients.
Pharmaceutical companies can better forecast demand with the end-to-end visibility from an omnichannel logistics model, reducing waste especially with the short shelf life of certain medication.
Healthcare institutions can devote more time to providing care, and less on the logistics involved, especially for chronic but stable cases where there is no real need to visit a pharmacy just to pick up a regular prescription.
And of course, patients and caregivers can avoid exposing themselves unnecessarily when a consultation with a healthcare professional is not required.
While the pandemic has prompted more consideration and demand for medicine delivery today, the case for incorporating medicine delivery in our healthcare approach for the longer term is stronger than ever.
As an Omnichannel enabler, we empower homegrown and global brands to strengthen their presence in the region through integrated B2B2C fulfilment, cross-border and last-mile distribution, real-time inventory, and online-to-offline retail management.