Pandemic Prevention Using Blockchain

The COVID-19 coronavirus has affected countries, communities and individuals in countless ways. As governments scramble to address these problems, different solutions based on blockchain technologies have sprung up to help deal with the worldwide health crisis. 

Blockchain technology has surpassed its prinipal use in the crypto-currency sector and is already becoming effective for logistics management.  Preventing, and controlling diseases that have epidemic potential is a major public health activity. Many surveillance systems are used to track potential new diseases and control existing diseases. Unfortunately, many of these systems are outdated, hard to access, or inaccurate. 

China’s current disease surveillance system for instance is an updated version of a system that is five decades old.
However, the decentralised open ledger system can help to provide stable identity management, transparent ownership structures, and effective data mining. 

It is particularly useful in tracking the origin and checking the quality of medical goods supply. Blockchain is ensuring supplies of emergency products and helping the frontline medical workers control the coronavirus pandemic. 

During the continuing health crisis, several governments have turned to blockchain solutions to manage their medical records, monitor the distribution of virus-prevention materials and consult with the public.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has chosen to partner with leading technology and blockchain companies IBM, Oracle, Microsoft, and decentralised platform Hacerato to build a distributed ledger technology-based platform to share data. The platform, MiPasa will be using is IBM’s enterprise-grade blockchain Hyperledger Fabric.  The blockchain network will aid the exchange of data relevant to the pandemic. With its analytic tools and sources of data, the project aims to help citizens and public health officials to track coronavirus infection hotspots.

  • In the first two weeks of February, China introduced 20 blockchain-based applications designed to help counter the pandemic outbreak. One of China’s largest courier service providers, SF Express, is using blockchain technology to distribute vital supplies during the ongoing pandemic. The company said it is exploring the application of blockchain technology to the transportation of key supplies related to COVID-19. The system will be able to track, verify, and record each transaction in the logistics process, and identify the priority level of each order. The company’s blockchain system would be able to classify priority levels of supply as well as minimise the risks of counterfeit or unlicensed goods being shipped to designated regions.
  •  A Singapore-based blockchain company Algorand Foundation has launched an application called IReport-Covid to help the fight against the pandemic. It allows symptomatic and non-symptomatic users to directly report any information they wish about the virus anonymously by filling a survey in order to learn about how COVID-19 is affecting people in real-time.
  • In the Netherland, the distributed ledger technology firm, Tymlez, has offered its blockchain platform as the underlying technology to “model the medical goods ecosystem through a platform that matches supply and demand.” The company is part of a consortium of Dutch companies which has launched the “Tech against Corona” initiative. Participating firms will freely provide the Dutch government with access to innovative technologies that can be used in the fight against COVID-19, according to cointelegraph.com.

The biggest opportunity for blockchain in the healthcare industry is as a single source of truth for the data provenance, as the whole world is fighting against this outbreak. Blockchain could be used to improve record management, healthcare surveillance, tracking disease outbreaks, management crisis situations and many more.

These expectations are based on the key aspects of blockchain technology, such as decentralised management, immutable audit trails, data provenance, and robustness. Additionally, multiple nodes in a permissioned blockchain have the ability to share and report vital data instantly, while complying with data privacy and security regulation.

The technology can also be used for surveillance purposes, tracking public health data surveillance, particularly for infectious disease outbreaks. Blockchain will not prevent the emergence of new viruses itself. But what blockchain can do is create the first line of rapid defense through a network of connected devices whose only purpose is to remain alert about disease outbreaks. 

The use of blockchain can help prevent pandemics by enabling early detection of epidemics, fast-tracking drug trials, and impact management of outbreaks and treatment. With easy access to such data, the containment of an outbreak becomes manageable and is of great help to the health authorities as well. This instant response capability can represent the difference between quick containment and global contagion. 

While blockchain holds promise for the health industry, analyst warn a number of issues, including data standardisation, costs of operation and regulatory considerations, still need to be addressed before this technology is suitable for wide adoption. But with this serious Corona virus pandemic a number of these considerations could be solved rather quickly.

Further improvements in medical supply chain management, product and vaccine verification, tracking donations, food safety and insurance processing can better support the global community in its fight against viral containment, making blockchain technology a vital addition in the coming decade.

GovTech:      I-HLS:          FinExtra:         Coin Telegraph


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