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13 Apr 2020

Blockchain could galvanize COVID-19 impacted healthcare supply chains: GlobalData

Blockchain technology could prove to be the missing link for global healthcare supply chains exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic in building resilience and galvanizing efficiency, transparency and authenticity, according to market research firm, GlobalData.

The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on almost every part of the healthcare industry's supply chains and has rendered many organizations -- especially those who rely heavily on markets such as India and China for raw materials or finished products -- vulnerable, the firm said.

The current outbreak has, therefore, created a "huge stress test" for the healthcare industry and the desperate need for change, said Urte Jakimaviciute, Senior Director of Market Research at GlobalData. "Lack of supply chain efficiency, transparency and authenticity has been an ongoing issue and the root of many challenges faced by the healthcare companies."

GlobalData cited numerous instances of faulty and counterfeit goods entering markets, which has exacerbated and weakened the global fight against COVID-19: faulty China-produced protective masks and testing kits have been reported by EU countries such as Spain and the Netherlands; Australian Border Force has reportedly seized consignments of personal protective equipment (PPE) that was counterfeit or defective; and the UK's Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has disabled nine domain names and social media accounts that were selling fake or unauthorized COVID-19 products.

Unless all points in the supply chain are transparent, identifying the source of the transgression or verifying the authenticity of the product is difficult, GlobalData said.

According to Jakimaviciute, healthcare organizations, from manufacturers to distributors, could use blockchain-based systems, which would provide an "open, tamper-proof, distributed record of transactions" and, in turn, "increase accuracy and efficiency".

"Blockchain has broad implications for the healthcare industry. More cases have recently emerged due to the need to simplify and improve security and accuracy for cumbersome, inefficient supply chain processes. While it may be too late to incorporate any sizable blockchain-related solutions to manage the impact of the coronavirus on supply chains, as the technology is still in a proof-of-concept stage, blockchain remains as one of the most promising solutions to facilitate data sharing, improve regulatory compliance and adherence with serialization regulations,” Jakimaviciute concluded.

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