Every business knows that logistics is an incredibly important aspect of operations from a variety of angles. Most businesses are concerned with optimum efficiency, cost savings and security from theft, but when you’re sending healthcare products, safety is paramount.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to healthcare shipping. Pharmaceuticals, narcotics and prescription drugs have different shipping requirements than clinical samples and surgery kits, for example. From temperature control, security and monitoring, to packaging that protects from light and humidity, here are a few tips for protecting your packages.
Typically when temperature-sensitive materials are shipped, dry ice is the go-to cooling agent. Dry ice is effective in keeping things frozen at -109°F, however new technologies are emerging that offer improvements over the tried-and-true method.
With dry ice, a mid-route re-icing is required to keep your items frozen. These re-icings take time, and put your sensitive materials at risk. New specialty packaging options like liquid-nitrogen dewars can last up to 10 days, and are safe and eco-friendly. Liquid-nitrogen dewars eliminate the need for insulated boxes, and liquid nitrogen is not a hazardous material, like dry ice is, so no hazmat training is required.
For items that need to stay cool instead of frozen, logistics companies use a range of methods. These include one-time chilling units, gel packs, or on-board temperature control.
Theft Protection and Monitoring
The most commonly reported sites of cargo theft are truck stops, followed by warehouses or distribution centers, then parking lots, and lastly carrier or terminal lots. It makes sense, then, to avoid these locations when you are shipping sensitive items like antidepressants or expensive drugs.
To limit these stops in transit and subsequent warehouse time, first and foremost, the trucks that are doing the shipping are fueled at the start. All containers are usually padlocked, and drivers that ship healthcare items are trained to closely monitor the cargo at all times.
Further security measures can be achieved through technology. GPS monitoring technology opens the doors for tracking the exact location as well as the temperature of your shipment, if it is temperature-sensitive. Monitoring systems can be placed directly in the box with the healthcare items that are being shipped and provide real-time information to a dedicated shipment manager.
Aside from monitoring temperature and ensuring timely delivery, packaging plays a role in the security by keeping fragile items safe. To ensure safe delivery, fragile items need the appropriate amount of cushion inside of a sturdy box, or possibly a box-within-a-box. Anything needing to be refrigerated is placed inside of an insulated container, typically.
With more sensitive healthcare items, like liquid clinical samples for example, it may require up to four layers of packaging to ensure security. The first being a watertight receptacle, like a taped jar or vial of glass or plastic, followed by some sort of absorbent material, like cellulose wadding, absorbent packets, or paper towels. The next level would be a secondary watertight receptacle, like a sealed plastic bag, plastic container or screw-top can. Lastly, the sturdy outer packaging could be corrugated fiberboard, wood, metal or plastic. One key that should never be overlooked, but may not be considered important, is the size of the outermost layer—it absolutely needs to be the appropriate size.
When choosing a service for the shipment of your sensitive healthcare items, it is important to evaluate that service based on your needs, as stated above. Finding the solution that works for your particular needs is essential for optimum efficiency in shipping, security, protection from theft, and avoidance of any potential violations of healthcare regulations.
Don Amato is Vice-President, Sales of Chicago Tag & Label in Libertyville, IL. Chicago Tag & Label manufactures customized tags, labels and integrated forms that deliver solutions to a broad range of industries including retail, industrial, manufacturing, distribution and medical environments.