Could IBM’s Blockchain Platform be the Solution to Disrupted Healthcare Supply Chains Caused by the Coronavirus Pandemic?

Sarah Tran   Apr 27, 2020 02:00 3 Min Read

IBM Rapid Supplier Connect Trust Your Supplier.jpg


New York’s largest nonprofit healthcare group, Northwell Health recently joined IBM’s Rapid Supplier Connect Network, a blockchain project that aims to tackle the disrupted healthcare supply chains caused by the coronavirus pandemic. 


Northwell Health comprises over 800 hospitals in New York and has had reportedly adequate supplies to protect COVID-19 patients and hospital staff during the steep inflation of coronavirus patients in the state. COVID-19 healthcare supplies including N95 respirator masks, ventilators, personal protective equipment (PPE) were all found to be low in stock in many countries around the world, due to the sudden surge in demand. Vice president and Chief Procurement Officer at Northwell Health explained, “It is through creating our own group purchasing organizations (GPOs) and supply chain, and joining forces with non-traditional suppliers that we have maintained an adequate stockpile of PPE and other equipment and supplies, so we are pleased to join IBM Rapid Supplier Connect.”


IBM’s Rapid Supplier Connect leverages the existing IBM’s blockchain platform, Trust Your Supplier, which is a blockchain-based trusted digital identity and supplier information that simplifies the supplier onboarding and supplier management processes while reducing risks. IBM is allowing qualifying suppliers to use Rapid Supplier Connect free of charge until August 31.


The Rapid Supplier Connect blockchain platform already has suppliers in the network, including Project N95. Project N95 has been focusing on sourcing due diligence to be able to provide PPE for healthcare works.


IBM also provided its supercomputer, “brain of AI” to the researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, to be used to process simulations to predict which drugs could be useful in developing treatments for COVID-19.


Trust Your Supplier


The blockchain network Trust Your Supplier was designed to improve supplier qualification, validation, onboarding, and life cycle information management. Other founding members of the network include Anheuser-Busch InBev, Cisco, GlaxoSmithKline, Lenovo, Nokia, Schneider Electric, and Vodafone


Alan Lim, the head of IBM Blockchain Labs Asia Pacific previously told Blockchain.News, “We identified a problem, that the current procurement process is a very long time to onboard a new supplier to a company. The company needs to go through the due diligence process to make sure that the given suppliers are compliant as necessary credentials to be able to support the buyer’s needs.”


The Trust Your Supplier network aims to solve issues around manual processes that make it difficult to verify identities and track documents such as bank account information, tax certifications and certificates of insurance throughout the lifecycle of a supplier. Technology research firm Garner Inc. mentioned that by 2023, blockchain will support the global movement and tracking of $2 trillion of goods and services annually. 


COVID-19 and supply chain disruption


The World Economic Forum (WEF) published a report on the importance of blockchain in supply chain disruption amid the coronavirus pandemic. Although the report suggested that blockchain may not be able to support the damage caused by the impact of COVID-19 directly, it may help with supply chain visibility.


Global trade and supply chains going through a massive shock from both the demand and supply side. The WEF report further suggested that as the COVID-19 situation changes daily, it is crucial for all parties to have visibility into the supply chain, to share data and communicate effectively. The COVID-19 pandemic has emphasized the lack of preparedness for this sort of crisis.


Blockchain.News previously reported that VeChain and DNV GL have been looking into using blockchain technology to enhance drug traceability since 2018. In November 2019, the National Medical Products Administration in China will launch a vaccine tracking system in Q1 of 2020 that covers the whole medical supply chain. Together with President Xi’s endorsement of the technology, blockchain could become essential for finding a suitable solution for the current issues.


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