Space data to secure vital healthcare supply chains

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When natural disasters strike, how can we ensure that critical medication and life-saving treatments continue to reach those in need? As part of Gravity Challenge, HR Wallingford has been exploring how space data could be harnessed to help the healthcare industry forecast, prepare and adapt to extreme weather caused by our changing climate.

Gravity Challenge is an international technology innovation programme that brings together consortia from across the globe to solve real world challenges using space enabled data, technology, and capability. As part of Gravity 03, challengers Roche Australia set the task of driving better access to healthcare services and supplies.

Climate change will increasingly cause more extreme weather. In Australia, this means natural disasters, such as floods and bush fires, will happen more frequently. These events have the potential to block transport routes, delaying or preventing delivery of essential medical supplies. Healthcare providers need to be prepared for the logistical challenges that climate disruption will bring.

As part of the Seanasol consortium, HR Wallingford is exploring the use of real-time satellite data to support supply chain management for Roche, ultimately ensuring that patients reliably receive the lifesaving medications and treatments that they need.

“To meet Roche’s challenge, we developed a prototype tool that gives them information about the potential impact of floods and bush fires on medical supplies,” explained Mike Panzeri, a technical director at HR Wallingford. “We bring together satellite data, meteorological forecasts and other information about orders and logistics and use it to forecast where problems are likely to occur, or are already occurring.”

The tool’s interactive maps that show where bushfires and floods are likely to happen across New South Wales and Victoria. The data is embedded into a ‘Control Tower’ web application so Roche’s supply chain managers and customers can see the impact of these potential natural disasters on their supply routes. And because the system can provide forecasts up to several months in advance, they can monitor the forecasts as they evolve and become more certain, and take steps to proactively manage deliveries to ensure uninterrupted supplies.

The “Control Tower’ also provides real-time updates to show the logistics team where fires and floods are located, and how the situation on the ground is likely to develop. The tool unlocks the best routes for the delivery of medicines and allows healthcare providers to have greater control of their products.

“The Gravity Challenge was a fantastic opportunity to work with Roche and consortium partners to develop something that will ultimately help people,” said Mike Panzeri. “At the end of the Gravity Challenge, we were appointed Challenge Champions, and we look forward to working with Roche Australia to scale up our prototype and realise the full potential of our system.”

Once fully realised, this ‘Control Tower’ has the potential applications for Roche’s operations in Australia and beyond. It also has the potential to help other healthcare providers or businesses with supply chain that are impacted by natural disasters.