Pharmacy of the Future: How Next Generation Solid State Cooling Opens the Last Mile and Ensures Drug Quality and Cold Chain Compliance

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By embracing innovation in solid state cooling and proactively adapting to regulatory changes, pharmacies can improve patient access and compliance to medications, while taking advantage of additional revenue streams and proactively managing down costs.

In today’s rapidly evolving health care landscape, pharmacies face a myriad of challenges that significantly impact their operations and ability to deliver life-saving medications and treatments to patients, including staffing shortages, burnout, and greater demand for medications that need refrigeration. The pandemic may be over, but challenges that surfaced due to the pandemic endure.

Young woman getting a medication delivery

Image credit: © sorapop | stock.adobe.com

Another trend accelerated by the pandemic is the expectation that health care services will be delivered to the patient in a convenient way. The adoption of telemedicine is one example. Now, health care convenience includes door-to-door pharmacy services. The home delivery model of consumer shopping makes the adoption of prescription drug delivery almost inevitable. With patients increasingly expecting the option of home delivery, pharmacies poised to take advantage of this growing market may have a huge opportunity.

Despite improving adherence and reducing costs, only about 10% of prescriptions in the United States are currently delivered to homes either through mail order or last mile.1 Delivery services present a promising avenue for future pharmacy operations. The market for prescription delivery is poised for significant growth and is estimated to reach $4.8 billion by 2032 according to a recent survey by Data Horizzon.2 One potential contributing factor is the high costs of medicines not maintained at appropriate storage temperatures, which is a significant cost driver at pharmaceutical storage and retail locations and a potentially frequent struggle with delivery. Many pharmacies utilize dry ice with their deliveries, a solution that is expensive, bad for the environment, and lacks temperature transparency and documentation.

The next logical step is investing in logistics infrastructure and efficient delivery systems to capitalize on the patient market opportunity but ensure cold chain compliance and cost-effective transit. Utilizing solid state cooling solutions in last mile delivery is an economical way to meet cold chain compliance regulations, and solutions offering real-time temperature data not only ensure prescription quality but support excellent patient service as well.

Federal or state-level changes targeting a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions will impact refrigerant choices and practices within pharmacies. These changes have already made their way to states like California3 and will soon impact other states, if not the whole nation. Compliance with new refrigerant standards will require investment in updated cooling systems and technologies, adding to operational costs. However, these regulations also present an opportunity for pharmacies to adopt more sustainable practices and enhance environmental stewardship through using refrigerant-free solid state cooling systems, an opportunity to effectively future-proof pharmacy refrigeration investments today.

The growing demand for medications that require refrigeration, such as biologics, GLP-1 medications, and vaccines, represents a significant growth opportunity for pharmacies. As advancements in medical science lead to more medications falling under this category, pharmacies can expect the need for expanded service offerings related to cold chain logistics and storage solutions. Solid state cooling solutions provide a cost-effective way to meet cold chain requirements while saving on energy costs, which are projected to grow in the coming years.4 

About the Author

Dana Krug is the Senior Vice President of the Cold Chain Fulfillment division at Phononic. Dana has served as the vision behind the way Phononic is creating a sustainable ecosystem for cold chain micro fulfillment in the food and beverage industry. From his original vision, he commercialized the first thermoelectric point-of-sale refrigerator, the first and only thermal electric freezer, and now the first sustainable actively cooled freezer & refrigerator tote. This signifies a paradigm shift in the cold chain landscape reaching beyond food to critical pharma and medical needs. This sustainable solution promises to redefine cold chain logistics, offering unparalleled efficiency and environmental consciousness.

Whether it is behind the counter or last mile delivery, solid state cooling systems offer more precise temperature control—both stable temperature maintenance and real time temperature documentation—reduced energy consumption, and lower maintenance costs compared to traditional refrigeration methods. By adopting solid state cooling, pharmacies can enhance medication storage and transit capabilities and improve compliance with cold chain regulations, all while reducing operational expenses and delighting end patients.

If there is one thing we learned from the pandemic, it is that the business of healthcare is ever changing and dynamic. However, temperature control and cold chain compliance have always been and will remain paramount to safe and successful pharmacy operations. Increasingly, regulatory bodies and the public at large are looking for improved refrigeration operations for business operations and the environment. By embracing innovation in solid state cooling and proactively adapting to regulatory changes, pharmacies can improve patient access and compliance to medications, while taking advantage of additional revenue streams and proactively managing down costs.

References
1. Meeting changing consumer needs: the US retail pharmacy of the future. McKinsey & Company. March 17, 2023. Accessed July 9, 2024. https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/healthcare/our-insights/meeting-changing-consumer-needs-the-us-retail-pharmacy-of-the-future
2. Prescription Delivery Service Market Size, Share, and Trends, By Application (Prescription Drugs, Wellness Supplement, Diagnostics Kits, OTC Drugs), By Distribution Channel (Pharmacy Stores, Healthcare Institutions, Clinics Research Institutes), By Region, Forecasts 2023-2032. Data Horizzon Research. January 23, 2024. Accessed July 9, 2024. https://datahorizzonresearch.com/prescription-delivery-service-market-2732
3. Husselbee A, Dewey S. Litigation Updates on California’s New Climate Disclosure Laws. Harvard Environmental and Energy Law Program. February 16, 2024. Accessed July 9, 2024. https://eelp.law.harvard.edu/2024/02/litigation-updates-on-californias-new-climate-disclosure-laws/#:~:text=Introduction,their%20climate%2Drelated%20financial%20risks.
4. Walton R. Utility business outlook: power prices stay elevated as elections sow uncertainty for clean energy plans. Utility Dive. January 23, 2024. Accessed July 9, 2024. https://www.utilitydive.com/news/utility-business-trends-in-2024/704415/
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