What Benefits Could Blockchain Offer Us During The Coronavirus Crisis?
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Very early on in the COVID-19 outbreak - before it had even been labelled a global pandemic by the World Health Organisation - multiple supply chain disruptions were announced as a result of the virus’s impact in China, which naturally had significant implications for global trade. Amazon, the world’s largest e-commerce company, experienced such intense supply chain disruptions in the wake of the pandemic that it chose to temporarily cease the shipping of any items considered non-essential - and it isn’t the only company to do so.
But it appears the challenges we are facing have simply energised us to find new and more efficient ways of conducting business. Last week, the World Economic Forum published a report
claiming that blockchain
and digitisation could help make supply chains more resilient to future shocks, by helping make supply chains more visible to manufacturers. It’s a shame it took a global pandemic for us to recognise this.
As a distributed and immutable ledger, blockchain has the capacity to accurately track and trace the movement of goods in a supply chain, helping manufacturers and business owners
identify where problems might arise during the production process and find alternative suppliers instead.
What this means is that while a manufacturer may be able to identify problems with Tier-1 suppliers during a global or regional crisis, they are less likely to know what is going on with those supplier’s other partners, and this is where experts believe blockchain could play a critical role in responding to shocks.
During COVID-19, many manufacturers have realised that this is where the problem lies - not in getting products or services rendered by Tier-1 suppliers but by “their” guys, and therein lies the potential value in leveraging blockchain technology to trace the entire supply chain to identify potential roadblocks.
Already pharmaceutical supply chains use blockchain to ensure compliance and traceability of pharmaceutical products, with MediLedger perhaps the most prominent blockchain-based solution
used by the industry today. Describing itself as a “The Open Decentralized Network for the Pharmaceutical Industry”, MediLedger was established in recognition of the fact that blockchain has the total capacity to separate the silos dividing pharmaceutical suppliers and customers, through enabling secure records of every industry transaction and ensuring loyalty across supply chains.
But pharma isn’t the only industry already leveraging the groundbreaking technology that is blockchain. Multiple U.S.-based food producers, including Nestlé, Carrefour and Starbucks, have already begun trialing blockchain for inventory management
, and the world has also recognised blockchain could be the answer to revolutionizing the healthcare industry. Between decentralising patient health history, and improving payment options, blockchain is becoming an incredibly valuable tool for healthcare.
With respect to the coronavirus pandemic especially, blockchain-based credentialing systems like ProCredEx could have a monumental impact on speeding up the onboarding process of new doctors and retired staff, enabling them to get to the front line and helping patients in need quicker.
Credentialing is usually an incredibly complicated and time-consuming process for doctors and healthcare workers, with hirers required to collect a huge variety of certificates and credentials before onboarding healthcare staff. In some instances, this can take not only months but years.
Using blockchain technology, however, ProCredEx can speed up that verification process enormously, making it an almost instantaneous transaction - something that is desperately required in the midst of a health pandemic, where retired workers and student nurses have been called upon to fight the infectious virus due to a lack of staff.
In terms of patient data management, blockchain could have even further benefits. Blockchain technology could help in the secure management of health records, including patients’ data, number of people testing positive to COVID-19 antibodies via Cellex rapid tests
, and progress to recovery, enabling government and healthcare workers to access this critical data (without any chance of compromising it) instantaneously.
This data could be transferred across borders, allowing immigration officials to choose who can and cannot enter a country, according to factual health data. At the same time, access to this data would be restricted from anyone unauthorised to access it, ensuring data privacy at all times.
Taking this a step further, blockchain could be used for surveillance purposes, allowing authorised agencies access to data concerning the people residing in their areas, for monitoring purposes.
The COVID-19 pandemic will most certainly propel blockchain into the spotlight and onto the agenda for many businesses - if it wasn’t already, as one of the buzzwords of recent years
Even before the novel coronavirus around 92 percent of companies believed their business models needed to change because of digitisation, but the COVID-19 crisis has shed light on how vulnerable companies really are.
Those businesses that were already tech-enabled, operated off the cloud, and were able to use machine-learning to quickly readjust targets, expectations and business operations in the face of a global crisis are the ones that will come out on top after all this is over, and blockchain will play a big part in recovery and moving forward.
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