Blockchain to Track COVID-19 Medical Products


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Blockchain is expected to become more common as more industries look to this technology to solve for weaknesses in their current processes. It is becoming a way to increase accountability and transparency throughout supply chains, health care, insurance, contract management and the financial industry.

Blockchain was made popular in 2008 with the invention of Bitcoin cryptocurrency. It records all transactions permanently between two parties on a public decentralized ledger that is time-stamped, providing a digital trust for those using the technology.

Blockchain technology provides trackability, traceability and trust in goods and financial resources. Blockchain technology could be used to track medical supplies — new and contaminated products — and even medical providers for the COVID-19 pandemic, offering valuable information about where medical providers and products are going and where they are coming from.

A series of ongoing efforts across universities, medical academia, the private sector and even private citizens are harnessing distributed systems in the fight against COVID-19.

A blockchain prototype to improve medical supply tracking and delivery to nongovernment organizations has been developed by a group of Arizona State University graduate students.

The prototype demonstrates the transparency and accountability available with blockchain technology, using a smartphone to track an order of amoxicillin in real time as it moves through the distribution process from initial order by the aid agency to the end-user who will distribute it to those in need. 

At each point in the distribution channel the details of the order — purchase order number, item type and quantity received — must be digitally confirmed. If there are any discrepancies or changes along the way, previous approvers are notified. 

The prototype solution won ASU Research Enterprise’s annual innovation challenge. Five competing teams were challenged to apply blockchain or blockchain-related technologies to solve a logistics or supply chain management security problem. Diverse solutions were submitted with some applying blockchain solutions to strengthen the security of the military supply chain and others using blockchain technology to improve the management of charitable contributions to nonprofit organizations.