Atlanta, Georgia-based shipping and supply chain logistics company United Parcel Service (UPS) is branching out into healthcare.
The delivery giant is launching a new home health service that would supply clinicians to deliver vaccines to customers, according to a report from Reuters.
UPS is using this offering as a way to expand its opportunities in the multi-billion dollar outsourced healthcare logistics market. The business line is focused on the delivery and supply chain management of pharmaceuticals, especially those with specific temperature and environmental control needs.
According to Reuters, the program will use the company’s 1.7 million-square-foot facility in Louisville, Kentucky as a hub to package and ship vaccines out to franchised UPS stores. Nurses contracted by UPS healthcare logistics subsidiary Marken will then take the packages “the last mile” to patient homes and administer them.
Marken CEO Wes Wheeler told Reuters that the pilot is an attempt by UPS to see if it can successfully “connect all these dots.”
The service is expected to launch later this year and Reuters reported that the company has signed up drugmaker Merck & Co. as a partner. Merck has a range of vaccines in its portfolio including treatments for HPV, Hepatitis B and Measles.
UPS is positioning the move as the next evolution in over-the-threshold services, which are ways that the delivery company is looking to extend its business past the entryway of the home.
Home-based healthcare is becoming increasingly relevant as healthcare delivery moves away from the clinic and into lower cost and more convenient sites of care.
The new service is also an attempt to head-off increasing competition from Amazon as the tech giant continues its own efforts in the pharmaceutical delivery following its acquisition of online pharmacy PillPack.
PillPack currently uses UPS and FedEx to ship its pre-portioned prescriptions to patients, but the company is in the midst of building out its national pharmacy network to presumably bring those capabilities in house.
Additionally, Amazon recently tapped veteran supply chain executive Nader Kabbani to lead its pharmacy efforts. Kabbani previously helped run the company’s Flex last-mile delivery service.
One big open question for UPS is how the company will work with insurers to cover the vaccine and how the service will stand out as companies like CVS Health look to make healthcare delivery more of a retail experience.
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