Blockchain and the Management of Health Crises

The new coronavirus outbreak has already caused, beside the tragic and irreplaceable loss of lives, a huge impact on global economy and a severe disruption on governance systems. This disruption is not limited to the provision of healthcare, as it calls into question the way our global, interconnected societies are prepared to deal with such emergencies.

This crisis has highlighted many critical issues, from the supply chain management of equipment and drugs, to the management of epidemics data and from the tracking of donations and aid to insurance claim. All these area have one essential common trait: they all highlight the need of a reliable, accurate, flexible and secure tracking system, able to follow any item, be it a medical report or a piece of supply, along all transactions and across all users. Furthermore, since a great part of these data concern medical and other sensible information, the protection of privacy and the preservation of integrity are of the utmost importance.

(image by Gammanews)

The blockchain can provide an efficient and robust solution to these problem, fulfilling all these requirements and ensuring the highest degree of interoperability. This story on Cointelegraph provides a number of examples of solution that are already being used or proposed for adoption, showing how a blockchain-based architecture can be crucial in many essential aspects of the management of health crises. The article goes on, suggesting four essential steps that should be implemented to have a meaningful, immediate impact on the present outbreak:

  1. Multinational health organizations should implement a blockchain-based platform that will connect local hospitals and health organizations in potential zones into which the virus may spread.
  2. Local hospitals will be able to record medical data about patients who show flu- or virus-like symptoms in the form of a public ID (patients will remain non-identifiable).
  3. This data will be further tracked by the health organizations in order to predict the spread of the virus based on the state of patients’ medical statistics. 
  4. Countries will be able to strengthen their preventive measures in the areas where the virus can potentially spread — e.g., increasing the workforce of medical staff, providing medical supplies.

More generally, we can already draw a very valuable lesson from this crisis: during the last years, there has been an emphasis on the value of data property, encouraging their management in separate pipelines, rigidly defined. This system has proven in many ways, from the problems in the tracking of epidemic data to the supply and distribution of face masks, to be quite unreliable in such a crisis. What we need is a system that can ensure robustness and flexibility, allowing the development of management solution on the go and providing the maximum of integration between diverse systems as well as the highest protection of data integrity. Here, the blockchain approach shows its inherent strenght.

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