The blog elaborates on the healthcare supply chain challenges amid COVID-19 and using emerging technologies to address them.
Let’s take a closer look to understand how Blockchain, AI (Artificial Intelligence), 3D Printing, and other technologies play crucial roles in tackling the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Also, explore how they are improving the fragmented and complex healthcare sector.
The impact of the crisis COVID-19 is so extreme that it has forced even the developed countries like the USA, UK, Italy, Spain, and others to relook at their various aspects, structure, and workings of social, economic, and environmental development. The global outbreak has affected the healthcare sector most. Global healthcare infrastructure has proved to be insufficient to combat or prevent the disaster of such a scale.
Considering the impact of this pandemic, public and private organizations have started to explore the tech space for solutions. They are piloting tech-driven solutions to improve the state of global healthcare experience and prepare for outbreaks like COVID-19 with emerging technologies like Blockchain, AI (Artificial Intelligence), 3D Printing, and others.
There are several challenges that these technologies seem capable of addressing. The first use case is to prepare healthcare supply chain management to respond to such unpredictable events with effective measures.
For instance, there has been an unprecedented surge in demand for hand sanitizer, masks, and other personal protection equipment (PPE) after COVID-19. Consequently, it has forced perfume markers in France to supplement the production of hand gels of hospitals for sustainable supply.
Essentially, decision-makers are facing difficulties in predicting the demand that may occur for a certain amount of equipment from a hospital or a government. Introducing AI tech-based solutions with Blockchain can assist organizations to identify patterns and predict the next course of action in such events. One case in point is how South Korea is making use of technology to prevent and track COVID-19’s spread.
AI-solutions enable decision-makers to capture, aggregate and process an overload of information and data generated from diverse sources. They can use AI-powered data to make accurate predictions of a surge in demand and a drop in the supply of healthcare equipment used to combat the outbreak. Blockchain healthcare solutions in such scenarios will provide and ensure end-to-end data security by eliminating any chance of tampering or altering of information.
Another challenge that the combination of the blockchain technology and additive manufacturing technique can address is maintaining the supply of equipment.
Today’s supply chains are reliant on one, centralized authorities that have failed to prepare for such unexpected disruption. With blockchain solutions, authorities can establish decentralized systems and thus, eliminate the need to rely on a single authority’s decision. Further, additive manufacturing can assist in coping with this shortage. Indeed, the FDA has permissioned the use of a 3D printed surgical mask design in response to the shortage of medical equipment stemming from the coronavirus crisis. You can find the approved mask design on the NIH 3D Print Exchange.
Additive manufacturing or 3D printing is the process of using technology to produce things layer by layer, directly from digital files. It enables us to make things wherever and whenever they are required. That’s too without requiring expensive tools that mass production requires.
We all have heard the issues of counterfeit products and medical equipment during the crisis. Blockchain solutions for traceable supply chains can ensure tracking of medical equipment from provenance to end-consumers with provision to check their authenticity.
Put simply, these technologies can play crucial roles in managing supply chain disruption. The maximum value, however, we can achieve when they are used as integrated solutions. Blockchain solution for end-to-end surveillance and reporting of the outbreak
Communicable diseases are difficult to contain. They spread rapidly while moving across political and geographical boundaries, and infecting people across countries.
Further, such communicable diseases carry a huge social stigma. The idea of being separated from fellow human beings is always scary to all. Thus, there is always a tendency to hide. The fact that most of the people do not respect privacy further aggravates this tendency. Ensuring no infringement of privacy in case of information sharing about communicable diseases should be of utmost importance.
Blockchain enables the secure storage and sharing of any transaction/ information in real-time between parties on the chain immutably. If WHO, health ministries and nodal hospitals were connected, they could have shared real-time information about communicable diseases like COVID-19. As a result, they could have taken strict preventive measures much earlier.
Enterprise blockchain solutions can assist with data secure and efficient aggregation and analytics for COVID-19. For instance, a solution as a map built with Hyperledger application development can encourage anyone infected to self-report privately. It will enable people to see whether they were near someone or crossed paths with infected persons. Potentially, authorities can prioritize who they need to test while patients can share information without worrying about privacy.
We have not experienced anything like the COVID-19 pandemic before. Individuals, societies, and private and public organizations need to take a hard look at the reporting infrastructure available for communicable diseases.
With technologies like Blockchain, AI, 3D printing (Additive Manufacturing), and more, we can develop solutions that prepare us to face another pandemic like COVID-19 in the future. Apparently, Blockchain and other technology might not provide a holistic solution, they can play crucial roles as enablers. Enablers that ensure the security and efficiency needed to combat such impending disasters.