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Thursday Mar 5th, 2020


While liability is intrinsic to any logistics operation, with medical couriers the stakes are even higher. Medical couriers (alternatively known as medical delivery services) transport medications, medical documents, medical equipment, and/or medical specimens — the timely delivery of which may literally be a matter of life or death. With such a heightened level of responsibility, it is imperative to choose a medical courier that can assure the protection of not only the materials being transported, but also patient privacy and needs.

Here is what you should not only expect but demand from any medical delivery service.

Integrity of materials transported

Depending on what is being shipped, more or fewer failsafes may be required to protect the integrity of those materials. A shipment of medical documentation will not be subject to spoilage or contamination like a truckload of prescription drugs or tissue samples would be. Climate-controlled transportation is vital to the medical and pharmaceutical industries — breaking the "cold chain" (2 to 8 degrees Celsius, or approximately 35 to 46 degrees Fahrenheit) might totally compromise the efficacy of a drug or corrupt a medical specimen, leading to misdiagnosis (if being analyzed) or infection (if it is being used in a procedure).

Depending on the length the medical materials must travel, and the environmental conditions of that route (Is it cold and dry or hot and humid? Along busy thoroughfares or through winding country roads?), your medical courier should be able to add more layers of security to its healthcare logistics operation. Typically, they'll offer some combination of the following:

  1. Refrigerated vehicles — typically a small truck or van with a refrigerated cargo area, which is either powered by the engine or independently (ideally with electronic backups)
  2. Passive shipping containers — called "passive" because they work to insulate the medications or specimens from temperature fluctuations or impact damages on their own. Often used in tandem with a refrigerated cargo area to provide an additional failsafe, aside from short journeys.
  3. Active shipping system — larger shipments, especially traveling via air or sea, may be packaged in containers that have temperature controls built right in. They may be powered by an internal battery, an external electrical supply, or an onboard power supply.

Of course, warehouse and storage facilities should be climate-controlled as well, maintaining the cold chain all the way from Point A to Point B.


Stewardship of patient privacy

A reputable medical courier will be transparent about its performance record and confidential about patient records. Personnel will be clearly identified with branded uniforms or vehicles, and each associate will be thoroughly background-checked and HIPAA-certified. HIPAA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, dictates that healthcare organizations have controls in place to safeguard sensitive health data, and that any information created, transmitted, or stored within a provider's system is secure, encrypted, and ultimately is the property of the patient.

To hold themselves accountable, medical couriers will continuously update authorized parties with email confirmations, signature verifications, and ultimately proof of delivery as the shipment makes its way through the supply chain. In doing so, everyone who may have come into contact with the documents, equipment, medications, or specimens being transported will be on the record.

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Flexible scheduling (and the ability to stick to it)

Health issues can arise any day of the week and any hour of the day. Medical couriers should have scheduling capability both during standard hours *and after hours, including same-day and STAT delivery services (STAT is short for the Latin word "statim" — used to convey immediate need). The urgency of healthcare needs must be respected at all times, and the courier you choose should have a proven track record. Its activities and location should be trackable in real-time, so there is absolutely no doubt the shipment is intact and on schedule. Because in healthcare logistics, time is truly of the essence.

Medical courier services from NLN

National Logistics Network's medical courier services are 100% guaranteed, insured, and bonded. Our extensive and exhaustively vetted network of partners means your sensitive medical shipments get where they need to be when they need to be there, with optimum integrity. To learn how we can help you, request a quote today.