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5 ways blockchain can unlock medical supply chain for coronavirus

Image by duncan c from Flickr

Mon, 23 Mar 2020, 12:19 pm UTC

Blockchain can help unlock the medical supply chain amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The coronavirus outbreak has put unprecedented strain on the global supply chain especially on critical items like surgical masks and ventilators to name a few. Unfortunately, there is no centralized procurement system to manage the medical supply chain like how central banks regulate the financial system centrally.

As the demand for medical supplies spikes, the Healthcare Systems are still taking their time to verify which of the suppliers have credible manufacturing capacities. Meanwhile, new vendors are still trying to prove themselves due to credibility challenges. On the other hand, the suppliers are also distinguishing who the credible purchasers are. Due to trust challenges, the whole ordeal takes longer.

According to Nishan Degnarain of Forbes, blockchain can address the trust issues and solve the medical supply challenges through blockchain in five ways.

Product requirements

There are various standards across the health systems and in different countries making it confusing what factories should be producing. Blockchain offers a mechanism for health systems to continually update factories with the latest product requirements and specifications to let them know what they should produce.

Supplier credibility

There is uncertainty over which suppliers can deliver quality equipment at the right quantity and at the right time. Blockchain can help health systems distinguish them by providing a way to assess factories credibly to see which of them produce high-quality products that meet the specifications and volumes needed.

Financial Payments

Factories and freight companies require financial payments upfront and they also prioritize credible purchase requests. Blockchain technology’s finance mechanism offers a secure way by releasing working capital upon pre-agreed production milestones and as supplies move to the next step of the supply chain.

Customs Certifications

Customs Certifications have to be validated quickly to allow the rapid transportation of equipment internationally. Blockchain-based Customs Certifications have been used to regulate the export of many products from wildlife trade to pharmaceuticals and that can be applied in the health systems, too.

Transportation tracking

Transport options need to be validated to ensure that the right shipments can move from factories, airports, distribution centers and to health centers under the right conditions especially for pharmaceutical products that need temperature control. Blockchain can help track these items securely for transparency.

Blockchain can also be used to manage medical data, advise the citizens and identify symptoms of infection. Mobile and online payment platform Alipay has been working with Zheijang Provincial Health Commission and the Economy and Information Technology Department to launch a blockchain-based platform that traces the demand and the supply chains of medical supplies following the shortage of facial masks which was among the biggest challenges in China when coronavirus broke out.

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