How Blockchain is Integral to Achieving End-to-End Visibility Throughout the Healthcare Supply Chain

Over the last few years, the healthcare industry has been hit hard due to COVID-19. The pandemic greatly disrupted the global supply chain resulting in significant challenges to supplies and materials needed throughout the industry. Due to this, there has been a push for visibility all along the healthcare supply chain to ensure timely, cost-efficient, and effective treatment and services. Also, today’s healthcare industry professionals are looking for a more resilient and distributed supply chain to work with their network of resources across the globe. 

Implementing blockchain technology into the healthcare industry would ensure that data is tracked all along the supply chain, achieving end-to-end visibility throughout the health system. Below are five ways blockchain is essential to achieving visibility throughout the healthcare supply chain.

Building trust with trading partners is a cornerstone of sharing information and communicating effectively.

Most large enterprises have invested in several single-point solutions for various stages and phases of their supply chain.  This lack of interoperability has resulted in several challenges including a lack of visibility, data governance disputes, and a degradation in the integrity of the healthcare data. All these challenges highlight the need for a new, collaborative approach amongst stakeholders, suppliers, and customers.

Businesses need to build trust with their supply chain data – to clean it up, share it amongst a trusted network, and allow everyone to derive actionable insights from itBlockchain provides the infrastructure for this trusted data sharing environment. As a decentralized, distributed ledger of immutable data, blockchain is the perfect technology to help companies and systems trust each other. Plus, with features like smart contracts it has an added layer of operational control and efficiency.

Collaboration among supply chain stakeholders will help the nation navigate out of pandemic-induced challenges such as transportation delays and worker shortages.

To tackle transportation delays and worker shortages, enterprises need to aggregate trusted data from various sources and systems and automate costly manual processes.  Information on transportation delays will come from several places to be effective and actionable. For instance, combining data and information from numerous 3rd party logistics partners with weather information can provide the necessary data mixture to enable real-time shipping decisions.  This moves an organization from “reactive” closer to “proactive.” 

The labor market was disrupted in 2020 due to COVID-19 and it may never return to what it was as workers are more transient and demanding than ever.  However, this creates the perfect opportunity for organizations to lean into automation.  The number of simple, manual processes managed by humans is still quite high and can lead to costly errors.  

Smart contracts that are stored on the blockchain can put operational control into the hands of businesses.  Smart contracts are self-executing agreements, written into the code, based on terms and requirements agreed upon by the parties involved. Since they self-execute there is no longer a reliance on third parties or intermediaries to manage them.  Smart contracts ultimately reduce costs, risk, and exposure to human error. 

Data sharing creates an integrated supply chain, builds stronger partnerships, and enables scalability.

Imagine the amount of data that exists within one medical supplier, and then multiply that by around 700 (a rough estimate of medical suppliers in North America) – the resulting sum of the entire medical supplier network’s data is invaluable.  

Each organization has massive amounts of insight into products, purchasing trends, source suppliers, etc. The potential of that data is massive, but the challenge lies in extracting that value.  The immutable and easily accessible data stored on the blockchain makes the use of Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and pattern recognition much more possible, even while protecting personal information as required by law. Healthcare organizations can let their aggregate data work for them to make them smarter, efficient, and nimble.

Visibility begins with a product’s raw materials and country of origin and ends with the patient.

Blockchain’s full potential is realized when multiple technologies and stakeholders are involved. In the healthcare industry traceability may be the best use case for the technology. This could help guarantee safe medicine, secure transplants, and a better standard of care for all patients.

Visibility depends on trading partners’ adoption of standards for reporting and formatting.

A standard for reporting and formatting certainly simplifies visibility, and with smart contracts can help translate or convert one organization’s format into another (e.g., different units of measure, different currencies, etc.) based on agreed upon metrics. When 3rd party data is required, for things like weather or metrics, “oracles” are used to connect the blockchain with this off-chain 3rd party data. This helps ensure that the blockchain contains all the information it needs to verify a transaction.

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