Blockchain’s Promise: Weapons for Defense Against Pandemics

by Harley Davidson Regua

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines a pandemic as a worldwide spread of a new disease. Pandemics happen when a new virus emerges to infect people and spreads sustainably among humans. Experts hardly predict the specific characteristics of future infectious diseases and the age groups they would target. Because of this, a new pandemic is widely assumed to have a detrimental impact on the global health and economy.

The recurring nature of pandemics, however, opens opportunities for early preparation and effective risk management. As recognized in the International Health Regulation (IHR) in 2005, various core capacities are needed to manage a pandemic such as, but not limited to, coordination, surveillance, laboratories, and risk communication.

The sudden emergence and rapid spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has prompted countries to have multi-sectoral preparedness and response plans to manage its tremendous effects. As we navigate with no map through this global outbreak, we must equip the world with weapons to defend its people and save many.

Blockchain technology is a form of distributed ledger that stores encrypted information accessible to the users, and records the ownership of assets of all participants in the network. While the technology is best known for its role powering cryptocurrencies such as bitcoins and ethereum, its characteristics make it an ideal tool of defense against global outbreaks like COVID-19.

Blockchain Outbreak Surveillance and Record Management

Carlo R.W De Meijer, senior economist of De Meijer Independent Financial Services Advisory (MIFSA), said containing a pandemic virus can be perceived as a data management issue. The biggest opportunity for blockchain in the healthcare industry is a single source of truth for the recorded data. Authorities can use the technology to manage real-time data, ensuring integrity and eliminating misinformation. This will allow them to act quickly in assessing the risk and informing the public on the virus trend.

Monitoring Disease Outbreaks and Managing Crisis

Many countries have employed blockchain-based tools to track patients diagnosed with COVID-19 and those who are infected but asymptomatic. China, for example, has been commendable for tracing people traveling to and from the country and identifying positive patients to prevent further infections, increasing transparency yields to a more accurate reporting and efficient response. For future disease outbreaks, blockchain can be used to alert the public about the impending spread of a virus and to prepare governments against its potential impact.

Blockchain in Supply Chains for COVID-19 Fight

Blockchain has been an effective tool in supply chain management. Multinational technology company IBM uses blockchain to bring more transparency to food supply chains which allows a more targeted response in a crisis. Ramesh Gopinath, vice president of IBM’s blockchain supply chain products, said the technology can aid hospitals and governments to track down N95 masks and other personal protective equipment (PPEs) for healthcare workers.

Blockchain can streamline medical supply chains which could change the world’s perspective on how to respond to pandemics. Blockchain can ensure the accessibility of the tools needed by healthcare workers and patients.

While the blockchain offers great promise for many financial and business applications, it also presents advantages in developing progressive maneuvers for public health emergencies and gearing us with weapons as we gear towards a new normalcy.

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Blockchain’s Promise: Weapons for Defense Against Pandemics was originally published in Data Driven Investor on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.