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Could Blockchain Be a Panacea to Covid-19 Pandemic?

Towards the end of 2019, tech pundits prophesized that blockchain will have much social impact in 2020. Even though Blockchain’s full potential is yet to be explored, their saying is true in the sense that the coronavirus outbreak in recent months has made blockchain-based technologies ever more relevant. For those organizations that are continually tracking how COVID-19 is affecting people in real-time, blockchain makes sense in keeping the public informed about the latest information and knowledge on the pandemic. The technology acts in real-time data with utmost accuracy and transparency that are becoming the need of the hour. Blockchain is also helping firms create greater awareness to people and organizations about the disease and its spread.

While the most popular way of sharing information on COVID-19 is via API and databases, blockchain often supplements API data and ensures there is transparency. Blockchain makes data on a platform tamper-proof and traceable. So, in the event of an epidemic, it can help gather precise acquisition of data, and dismiss false information by verifying a complete data audit trail. Thus, it helps citizens and authorities manage an outbreak in an efficient manner.

Areas where blockchain can help

Blockchain could be used to improve a variety of health care-related processes, including record management, healthcare surveillance, tracking disease outbreaks, management crisis situations and many more.

Record management: In healthcare, blockchain can be used for record management purposes, to manage real-time data and ensure its integrity, while identifying and eliminating misinformation about the Coronavirus. In emergencies like these, there are high numbers of incoming data that needs to be collected and analyzed. By using blockchain technology one could be able to see all the data and trends on the virus in real-time including all information about confirmed cases of infected, death toll, recoveries, etc. Blockchain will also make sure that health records are securely managed, ensuring interoperability without compromising patient privacy and security. All this information can be used by research labs working on a vaccine.

Blockchain healthcare surveillance system: Blockchain can also be used for surveillance purposes. A blockchain healthcare surveillance system can easily reach areas where connectivity is poor, and costs must be kept low. Local practitioners can receive real-time information on surrounding areas, regardless of governmental or political barriers. In addition, global organizations like the World Health Organization could access the data. As the system is decentralized, data remains secure and multiple organizations can report the data.

Tracking infectious disease outbreaks: Blockchain could be used for tracking public health data surveillance, particularly for infectious disease outbreaks. Increasing transparency will result in more accurate reporting and more efficient responses. They would allow for rapid processing of data, enabling early detection of infections before they spread to the level of epidemics.

Securing medical supply chains: Blockchain could also be used for “track and tracing” of medical supply chains. In a recent report published by the World Economic Forum (WEF), digitization and blockchain can help with supply chain disruption and visibility. A blockchain-based system could ensure vaccines, testing equipment, and other relief efforts are sent to the right places at the right times and in the quantities needed, and have that recorded. Securing the supply chains of these valuable resources could have life-saving effects. Combined with a surveillance system, a blockchain supply management system could change the way the world responds to epidemics.

Tech rivals collaborate on blockchain

In response to COVID-19, technology companies have ramped up collaborations on innovative technologies such as blockchain. For instance, a mega-blockchain initiative was launched by Oracle, IBM and others to integrate COVID-19 data from WHO (World Health Organization) and the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

Start-up HACERA formed a blockchain platform called MiPasa, which aggregates and reconciles data from various sources to integrate data at scale for researchers and scientists. Separately, a number of blockchain-based monitoring systems are springing up, such as the Public Health Blockchain Consortium (PHBC) Virus Blockchain deployed to identify and monitor COVID-19 free zones.

“The industry can no longer afford to wait several years for new market segments such as blockchain to take off. More importantly, at this critical juncture of a global pandemic, blockchain technology can provide researchers with a strong and reliable data platform in the form of a shared ledger, establishing an autonomous and decentralized peer-to-peer network,” said Charlotte Dunlap, Principal Analyst at GlobalData, a data and analytics company.

“The effects of unprecedented cooperation among technology rivals coming together to solve a global crisis will continue to linger long after the coronavirus is under control. Enterprises should become accustomed to new levels of industry collaboration. This expectation will be based on a critical need for industry giants to rally together to focus attention in 2021 and beyond on helping to get the economy back on track and ensuring customers are successful,” he added.

The Covid-19 crisis has highlighted a general lack of preparedness for this sort of disaster. So, if similar disruptions happen in the future, it’s worth implementing transparency solutions sooner rather than later. It is here that blockchain, though still nascent can play a decisive role in better managing pandemic situations and its treatment in the future.

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Sohini Bagchi
Sohini Bagchi is Editor at CXOToday, a published author and a storyteller. She can be reached at sohini.bagchi@trivone.com