July 9, 2019

The Importance of Data Logging for Online Pharmacy Processes

Damaged freight is an absolute nightmare in the online pharmacy industry. Running an online pharmacy requires the careful transportation of goods that can be sensitive to temperature, light, and humidity levels. And thus, ensuring that items arrive at their destination in useable order requires that the right processes are in place. After all, the end customers depend on these items for their health and wellbeing.

The best way to ensure the safe arrival of pharmacy freight is to implement monitoring as part of the shipping process. Here is exactly why data logging is important for online pharmacy processes.

The typical online pharmacy process

Here’s what typically happens when a patient receives pharmaceuticals through an online pharmacy:

  1. They go to the doctor for an examination and receive a prescription.
  2. They fill the prescription through an online pharmacy.
  3. They receive the medication in the mail from a licensed pharmacy, with pharmacists available to answer questions about the purchase.

The part that’s not seen by end customers is the whole supply chain process that happens between filling and receiving the prescription.

The online inventory has to be managed (including being protected and checked for safety standards) in order to provide satisfactory customer experience. That means anyone who owns an online pharmacy needs to be adept at working with suppliers and carriers. And they should also be invested in monitoring and reporting of data for their pharmaceutical supply.

Unfortunately, much of the supply can be at risk during the shipping process.

The issue of damaged pharmaceutical goods

Is damage during shipping really that much of an issue? It absolutely is. Even if the number were relatively small, every item that cannot reach its destination intact is an inefficiency. But the number is not small.

According to an article in the journal Pharmacy and Therapeutics, the exact number of damaged pharmaceutical goods is difficult to pinpoint. That’s because the number includes items that make it to the patient but do not work as effectively as they should have. But some sources cite the number to be at least 20 percent, and likely higher. 

What is known is that a variety of factors can lead to damage. Among those are:

  • Dropped packaging during picking, packing, shipping, and receiving.
  • Exposure to temperatures outside the safe range. And this doesn’t just mean keeping drugs cold. Some goods require room temperature conditions. Some require refrigeration. Others need to be frozen. And many cannot be allowed to freeze.
  • Exposure to light, which can degrade some products.
  • Incorrect humidity settings in the freight compartment, for humidity sensitive goods.
  • Shocks and vibrations during transportation that may cause packaging to tilt or fall over.

The role of data logging

How can data logging help any of these problems? It’s simple. When you monitor the conditions at which pharmaceutical goods are being transported, you can keep a record of how often appropriate conditions are being met, and when they are not.

Once you have that information, you can then use it to prevent future incidents and ensure better shipping conditions.

Here’s how it works:

  • You install one or multiple sensors that record data input. Each sensor is designed to collect particular types of information. For instance, they may record sound, temperature, light, humidity, etc. These are usually battery operated, though you can also install sensors with external power connectors.
  • The sensor device, or data logger, will also have a microprocessor and memory, in order to store the data, which can be transferred to a computer, or more likely now, transferred to cloud software so the information can be monitored and utilised right away. The speed of cloud computing has greatly improved the online pharmacy process with real-time monitoring.
  • Supply chain managers check reporting status and analyse the data that has been collected, in order to improve supply chain strategies, taking each sensitivity into consideration.

Best data loggers for online pharmacy processes

There are different types of data loggers available, but for the purposes of pharmaceutical transport, it’s best not to use standalone loggers that must have data manually transferred to a computer. That’s time-consuming and inefficient.

Instead, a wireless logger connected to a cloud service is the best way to go. It can provide speedy data uploads for instant visibility to everyone who needs access to the data.

But is monitoring really necessary?

Yes, monitoring your supply chain has real and immediate effects. For one thing, remember that estimates show at least 20 percent of pharmaceutical freight is being damaged during transport. That translates into real financial losses for your company.

That 20 percent damage can mean:

  • Millions of dollars in lost product.
  • Tarnished company reputation from products arriving to patients in subpar condition.
  • Decreasing trust from consumers.
  • Environmental harm from disposed of pharmaceutical goods and container waste.
  • Legal repercussions.

Let’s take a closer look at that last one. An online pharmacy can be in real trouble from not properly monitoring their freight. The World Health Organisation and the EU Commission have strict requirements regarding the handling of pharmaceutical goods during shipping and storing. 

And what about reputation and end customer trust levels? An important part of running a successful online pharmacy is strong brand presence and a positive perception by the public. Given that the pharmaceutical industry is in the business of helping people be healthier, it is imperative that the products arrive in top condition.

Being aware of every part of the supply chain is the only way to know that you can guarantee the quality of your products.

Thinking of starting an online pharmacy?

If you’re at the beginning of the online pharmacy game, here are some steps you can take to have the best start for your business:

  • Clearly display your certifications on your website. This helps consumers to trust you and ensure them that your team can answer their prescription questions. It also reassures them that you are safe to order from.
  • Be transparent about your products and processes. Display all the required information about your products and supply chain.
  • Use data logging to monitor goods during shipping. As an online pharmacy owner, a lot of your inventory is out of your hands while it’s at the supplier and in transport. But the safety of those goods is vital to your business at all stages of the supply chain, and that means monitoring the condition of the pharmaceuticals should be a top priority.

Data logging can sound like an extra expense, but it can potentially save you thousands of dollars annually.

Did you find this post useful? Check out the posts New EU Regulations Require QR Codes on Medicinal Packaging and Three Reasons Data Logging is Vital for Your Pharma Company for similar content!

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