With the adequate supply of equipment and medications, medical personnel can provide the right healthcare for patients at the right time. However, even before patients get to see medical staff, they have to contend with a complicated, cumbersome and fraud-vulnerable supply chain.
While the COVID-19 pandemic is once again bringing these inefficiencies into focus, tech minds are working out how regulated blockchain could solve them.
Since medical supplies have to go through various stages such as manufacturing and distribution, there are bound to be issues such as mishandling and theft. Also, considering that the medical supplies market is expected to hit $132.6 billion this year, it’s likely that counterfeiters and thieves will be attracted by the prospect of getting their share of the market.
Due to documentation issues like lacking documentation for the source of raw materials, inaccurate transport logs, inaccurate product catalogues and lack of access to product information, regulators and medical personnel find it difficult to identify counterfeit products that have made their way into the medical supply chain.
As a result, buyers can receive substandard products rather than the authentic products they ordered. According to the World Health Organization, 1 in 10 medical products in low- and middle-income countries are counterfeit.
Unfortunately, counterfeit and expired drugs can be harmful to patients, lead to more health problems and result in losses for manufacturers.
BSI estimates that cargo theft amounts to over $1 billion annually, with the US and UK accounting for nearly half of the theft. Without proper tracking of supplies from the manufacturer to the buyer, it’s difficult to recover stolen cargo.
Furthermore, conventional medical supply tracking can be expensive because of expenses such as communication and tracking software, inventory management, labour costs and more. Additionally, different manufacturers may have different software programs and protocols to track supplies, and this disparity can increase expenses.
Lastly, each medical supplier has a central database of their supplies, which means there’s a single point of failure in the database. If this database gets compromised, it’s easy for anyone to access confidential medical supply data.
Regulated blockchain has a lot of potential to eliminate the issues that plague medical supply tracking. How can regulated blockchain form the ideal platform for medical supply tracking?
To ensure transparency of medical supply information, all the relevant parties, such as manufacturers, delivery services, healthcare providers and supply buyers, are present on the regulated blockchain network. This way, every party can follow the supply process.
As transactions are clear to all the parties in the blockchain, the government can regulate medical supplies more effectively. Buyers can reduce the chances of receiving counterfeit products and manufacturers can reduce lost revenue through theft and counterfeiting.
The Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA) was created just for this purpose. As Tim Mackey, professor of Global Public Health at the University of California, San Diego, said in a discussion, DSCSA is meant to create an
“interoperable supply chain for pharmaceuticals, and that generally means that the medicine should be able to be tracked and traced all the way from its production to where it goes to be dispensed.”
Regulated blockchain can help make this possible. How can it verify the authenticity of medical supplies? There would be a multi-layer consensus mechanism where a group has to accept a transaction as valid before it’s entered into the blockchain.
Consequently, the relevant health regulatory agency is able to confirm that the product meets the quality requirements. Also, the manufacturer can confirm the provenance of the product. As a result, the medical supply chain is regulated, secure and decentralised.
Once the product is authenticated for delivery, the relevant parties, such as the buyers, sellers and regulatory agencies, can monitor the real-time status of supplies on their way from manufacturers to buyers.
Another great feature of regulated blockchain is the smart contract. With smart contracts, buyers can trigger actions based on set conditions. This could be a trigger for a new supply order when a pharmacy’s stock level has reached a threshold. Also, smart contracts can be used to access more information about a defective product during the recall process.
With regulated blockchain as the platform for medical supply tracking, there are benefits for all parties involved. First, regulated blockchain ensures that hospitals and other healthcare establishments receive the right medical supplies to provide the best possible care for patients. It helps to reduce counterfeit products and manage quality more effectively.
Further, regulated blockchain reduces the costs associated with monitoring the medical supply. As all parties can track the medical supply on the blockchain, there’s little need to set up and spend money on other, less effective, communication tools.
Furthermore, regulated blockchain makes it easier to track medical products through their lifecycle. This also enables patients to track the history of a drug before they use it, ensuring that they’re receiving exactly what they paid for.
With blockchain, users can collaborate on a shared platform for medical supplies without revealing important information about themselves. Also, manufacturers can verify that returned drugs are authentic before they’re sent back into circulation. This is vital, as 120 million products are returned annually.
Lastly, manufacturers and distributors can detect inefficiencies in the supply chain and eliminate them on time. By doing so, they can locate and remove counterfeit, expired or damaged products.
Medical supply tracking is vital to the operation of hospitals and other healthcare services. However, conventional medical supply tracking still faces problems such as theft, counterfeiting and poor documentation.
There’s no doubt that these are serious problems for hospitals and their patients, manufacturers and healthcare regulatory agencies. Fortunately, regulated blockchain can eliminate these problems and serve as the ideal platform for medical supply tracking.
Contact us at L3COS today to see our solutions to medical supply tracking problems.