How Blockchain Technology Helps in the Fight Against COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has swept the world like fire through dry grass affecting every aspect of life as we knew before 2020. In the face of adversity, humanity has armed itself with all conceivable weapons, old and new. Blockchain is one of the latest additions to this arsenal, and one that was inconceivable only a decade ago.
Today, we take a break from the blockchain use for cryptocurrencies and look at how this powerful technology helps in the fight against COVID-19.
What is blockchain technology?
Let’s start with a brief reminder about what blockchain is and how it works!
Blockchain is a technology that was initially conceived to support digital currencies. It consists of a decentralized, trustless network of powerful computing machines that together host the software code and the corresponding database of validated transactions.
This network is defined by a digital register where entries are grouped in blocks, linked in chronological order, and whose integrity is guaranteed using encryption.
One of the biggest advantages of blockchain is that it holds immutable information. As a result, the technology has expanded its use in other areas, such as secure identity registers, supply chain management, and logistics tracking.
Blockchain benefits against Coronavirus
Recently, blockchain has come to the attention of the medical and scientific community as a helpful instrument in alleviating the COVID-19 crisis. Even the European Union has hosted a European Alliance Against Coronavirus Daily Webinar on 26 June 2020 debating the use of this technology. During the meeting, several benefits of blockchain against Coronavirus have been identified, and they include:
- A way to trace the COVID-19 test kits to certify origin, distribution and laboratory results
- A way to support scientific research to harness the power of distributed computing
- A tool for helping with complex calculations
- Support for running simulation in search of treatment to COVID-19
- A way to certify smart working activities
- A way to coagulate all the data on COVID-19 patients in a single protocol
- A way to track record of different topics and enable digital signature using smart contract
Some of the main blockchain properties like high-security protocols, transparency, and trust have weighed heavily in its validation as an effective solution for the complex issues surfacing from the pandemic emergency.
Examples of blockchain use in the COVID-19 crisis
While the use of blockchain in the medical field has come into the spotlight with the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic, it is worth mentioning that various institutions and companies were already using it in this industry.
Medical Supply Chain Management
One of the ways in which blockchain technology can help during the pandemic is ensuring that hospitals have access to quality medical equipment. This is possible through a blockchain-enabled database that contains information about the origin of medical supplies and equipment and its availability.
One case involves the use of IBM’s Rapid Supplier Connect, which is a blockchain solution specifically developed to help New York hospitals and healthcare providers deal with COVID-19 supplies shortages.
Multi-Access Database of Medical Records
The ability to hold a considerable amount of immutable information makes blockchain the ideal solution for holding and sharing medical records. The National Health Service (NHS) in the UK is considering building an interoperable infrastructure to manage records that leads to improved healthcare outcomes, while maintaining patient data ownership and without compromising the privacy or security of sensitive data.
Track-And-Trace COVID-19 Systems
Blockchain technology can also help develop contact-tracing applications that have the purpose to slow down viral propagation. One example of this kind of program is Coalition, which is the brainchild of a decentralized Internet of Things (IoT) startup called Nodle.io.
Coalition uses Nodle’s Bluetooth Low Energy-powered database of information to communicate with nearby devices. Once a user downloads the app and turns on Bluetooth, the app will record anonymous encounters with other Coalition users nearby. For privacy purposes, these encounters are stored locally on the phone.
As the COVID-19 pandemic spread, governments and non-governmental organizations alike have initiated donation programs enabling people to send money to hospitals, clinics, and other facilities.
Blockchain technology can ensure the security and authenticity of money donations. The World Food Program (WFP) has already used blockchain technology as an effective means to empower people to meet their essential needs. The medical field can rely on this precedent to provide better solutions for those who want to help.
Support for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention
The Indian-American author and alternative medicine advocate, Deepak Chopra has started a program that would help people struggling with mental health issues and suicidal tendencies as a result of dealing with COVID-19 and its consequences.
The program is called the “Never Alone Initiative – Worldwide Alliance,” and it is a partnership between the Chopra Foundation and Hedera Hashgraph, a distributed ledger technology company in Richardson, Texas.
According to an article published on the National Institutes of Health website called Suicide Risk and Prevention during Covid-19, suicide rates tend to increase considerably during health crises and epidemics. So, it is expected that the 2020 global pandemic might have long-term effects on mental health and force many sufferers to consider suicide.
Chopra’s initiative should become a blockchain-based platform for the mental health challenges associated with Covid-19. It should work as a network for people who struggle with these issues and those who want to offer support. The chain should also develop into a library of resources that would benefit both doctors and patients.
The Bottom Line – Blockchain technology vs. COVID-19
Digital experts and developers are already aware of the immense benefits and opportunities that blockchain technology can bring to the medical field during the COVID-19 crisis and long after it becomes a dark spot in human history.
It is now up to the decision-makers to acknowledge the importance of technological innovations and how we can ledger them to equip doctors, scientists, and caretakers with another powerful weapon in the war against disease and poorly managed crises.