Medical equipment shipping differs from most other types of shipping and logistics—strict requirements must be adhered to, and it comes with high stakes. Problems like compromised quality or items not arriving on time can mean the difference between a healthcare facility running smoothly or experiencing delays with the care they provide to patients, which can have serious consequences. It’s of the utmost importance that medical supplies logistics is reliable and delivers quality service. Medical shipping companies also face challenges specific to shipping in this field. This article covers the top obstacles and best practices for shipping medical supplies.
Logistics for medical equipment shipping focuses on delivering equipment where it is needed, on time and without issue, from the manufacturer to a healthcare facility or patient. While many industries have straightforward or relatively easy processes, medical supplies logistics has more considerations that must go into ensuring the safety and security of goods. It often involves more steps, dealing with additional parties like insurance companies and group purchasing organizations. Healthcare organizations must maintain logistics processes that align with and support their healthcare delivery models, giving close attention to performance and how to optimize logistics factors to improve the quality of care they provide.
It may be multiple hospital beds or a single MRI machine that needs shipping. With the wide range of medical equipment types and specific requirements, shippers must consider every shipment type individually. Shippers and logistics providers must do their due diligence to know the conditions that must be maintained, the packing requirements, and the transportation services needed. It’s common for medical equipment to require temperature and humidity control to stay within an acceptable range for transport and usage, and there are often different aspects involved with packing to protect equipment thoroughly in transit. Shippers may require specific services such as expedited, LTL, or shipment tracking and visibility.
Shippers must manage factors like the speed of the shipment, cost, and the reliability they get from their logistics partners for medical equipment to arrive without any damage or issue. These motivations show where the biggest challenges of logistics management appear. Here are four of these challenges for medical shipping companies.
Companies must determine the service level needed for each shipment to improve efficiency and save on transportation costs. When there is a time-sensitive shipment, expedited service is necessary, and healthcare companies must have confidence in their logistics partners that the medical equipment will arrive on time. When the freight is not time-sensitive, this could be a significant source of waste to pay for fast transportation. Companies must have a reliable system for these decisions.
The difficulty with inventory is maintaining an adequate amount of medical supplies and having accurate inventory management, which can be a challenge in healthcare. For example, before certain surgeries, a hospital might need multiple prostheses sizes for the surgeon to determine which to use during the surgery. Afterward, the unused sizes must be inspected before they are returned to inventory until needed for another surgery. Multi-step processes like this make healthcare logistics and inventory a challenge, and if items are unavailable, it can even delay patient procedures.
Healthcare facilities may have to contend with reverse logistics to return medical supplies and equipment to the manufacturer. A defective or recalled item creates a new logistical demand for coordinating the return shipment. This takes time and money to complete and runs the risk of impacting the logistics of other medical supplies or creating disruptions in healthcare service. Though complicated, reverse logistics planning is necessary for medical supplies logistics.
Visibility allows medical shipping companies to better plan, improve efficiency, and respond and adapt if disruptions or delays occur. It can provide updates on the current location of shipments as well as data monitoring for conditions like temperature and humidity. Automation goes hand-in-hand with utilizing visibility data. Without automation, companies waste time on manual processes that may require constant attention to be effective.
Various types of medical supplies need special shipping and logistics. Large and heavy items such as lab and diagnostic equipment must be in pristine condition upon delivery. More commonly-shipped items include medical supplies like latex gloves and needles—inventory that the healthcare facility constantly depends on. Clinical sample shipping also requires several watertight layers of packaging to transport—one example of this is transporting plasma. Pharmaceuticals are another category that has its own strict requirements like packaging and temperature control. Here are additional examples of medical supplies that require special logistics.
The most effective logistics management strategies leverage technology to stay proactive and ahead of demands. Companies must manage the requirements of shipping any type of medical supplies or equipment, which may be simple for routine shipments. Still, when shipping new items, additional attention is needed. Shippers should discuss any upcoming needs with their logistics providers, such as specific packing, expedited service, or a change in the shipping volume. Visibility and data analysis further support logistics by helping to identify areas of improvement and opportunities to reduce the risk of issues. The right strategies can increase the reliability of medical supply shipping that healthcare operations depend on.
Companies may handle the complex processes of medical equipment shipping internally or choose to use a third-party medical equipment logistics provider (3PL) to manage this for them. They can shift their focus away from maintaining an internal team for logistics management and instead rely on the experience of their provider. Here are some benefits of using a logistics provider.
A 3PL has the expertise and resources to provide specialized logistics services, knowing the common challenges to watch for, how to manage them, and offering a trusted network for quality transportation and other services.
3PLs have exclusive relationships with the providers in their network and can have greater negotiating power to drive down costs. With their experience plus the help of technology, 3PLs can also find where there are inefficiencies and waste in logistics-related spending.
Clients of third-party logistics providers get the flexibility to scale according to their changing needs. This prevents them from leaving wasted resources on the table when they need to scale down, and they get the necessary resources quickly when they need to scale up.
Outsourcing logistics allows healthcare companies to focus on their core competencies, especially providing the best service for their patients. The streamlining of logistics helps support a positive patient experience because all medical supplies are in the right place at the right time.
Zengistics provides medical shipping companies with a variety of services for reliable, on-time deliveries, including the following.
Shipping medical supplies effectively helps the healthcare facility, but more importantly, it benefits patients and their care. With Zengistics, healthcare companies get trusted industry experts to navigate the challenges of medical equipment shipping without the hassle. Zengistics’ foundation on technology provides the best shipping services possible, backed by a reliable network, and gives shippers logistics management they can depend on. Learn more about partnering with Zengistics by contacting us today.