By Mahmoud Al-Yahya, General Manager, Xerox Middle East
The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) healthcare market is expected to reach $71.3 billion in 2020 and projected to surpass the $100 billion mark by 2023, according to the Annual Middle East Healthcare and Technology program. The industry is rapidly growing as governments take the necessary steps to meet international standards. For example, the UAE aims to achieve world-class healthcare system through Vision 2021. As regional governments work toward successfully achieving their national goals, they will face several challenges. Globally, one of the major challenges in the healthcare industry today is counterfeit products and medications.
Current challenges that the healthcare industry is facing
The presence of counterfeit products can be detrimental to the industry if not controlled and eliminated. Not only do fake products affect the economy of a country but also pose a real threat to the patients’ health, and quality of service offered by hospitals. Similarly, fake medicines and equipment could jeopardise the reputation of a brand and even the hospital that features this brand. When hospitals depend on a feeble supply chain, they risk having very minimal visibility into the production and storage process. Inventory managers do not have accurate insight into the conditions at which the products are developed and packaged. Therefore, they would not be able to immediately address any problems that might occur without disrupting the supply chain. Even customers are looking for a connected experience that can give them instant access to information at any time.
To address those challenges, governments issue new stringent legislation, impose rigorous import and export rules and launch raids on illegal pharma distribution hubs. What else can be done to ensure safe and legitimate sales of pharmaceutical products? Smart packaging plays an instrumental role in battling black pharma production and distribution. The technology allows for more advanced automated logistics, ensures product quality and enhances the consumer experience. Smart packaging is revolutionising the tracking of medical devices and medications. Manufacturers can easily monitor and keep track of materials to prevent counterfeit, stolen or contaminated drugs from entering the market. Patients, doctors and manufacturers will all benefit from this technology as it simply allows easy communication between products and software.
Smart packaging can control the quality of pharmaceuticals
Automating inventory tracking using smart labels and smart cabinets streamline hospital supply chain management, and aligns with many hospital’s administrative goals, saving money. One way to do so is through smart packaging printed memory, which adds intelligence to objects by printing thin circuitry on a flexible substrate. The flexibility offered by this form factor provides design freedom. Labels can be placed on packaging at any stage of the process. While they may be tiny, they’re packed with useful capabilities. The non-volatile memory can store up to 36 bits of rewritable memory. Additionally, data is preserved until overwritten within ten years. Everything from lot codes and serial numbers to expiration dates and geographic codes can be stored.
An inexpensive contact device is used to write and read the labels. A customised reader is designed based on user requirements. It can be an external reader to read the memory on packages, or integrated into a dispensing unit for use in ‘Smart Consumables’. One of the significant advantages of this solution is that you do not need to be online to read the memory. This is important for use where Wi-Fi may not be available, or you want to prevent network invasions. Smart packaging can monitor changes in a product and/or its environment and can act upon these changes. This type of technology uses sensors (smart labels) to monitor product quality, storage conditions. The reader can also interface with an existing smartphone, giving live updates about the state of the product.
In conclusion, smart packaging is transforming the pharmaceutical industry by providing a better system to monitor package conditions every single step of the way while passing information in real-time. This technology has sensors that can detect anything from temperature to humidity, check if a package was tampered with and trace the product from anywhere around the world. For the pharmaceutical industry, smart packaging ensures the quality and safety of products. Similarly, this ensures that the global shipping process is transparent and controlled. Smart packaging can store, sense, compute and wirelessly communicate information — acting as if the package has a mind of its own.