blockchain for health data (LeoWolfert/Shutterstock.com)

DOD eyes blockchain for medical use cases

With the security of the medical supply chain top of mind now that COVID-19 vaccines are on the verge of delivery, the military is taking a closer look at the opportunities blockchain provides -- not only to improve logistics and secure supply chain operations, but also to authenticate the identities of health care workers and facilitate rapid decision-making.

Distributed ledger technology could facilitate multifactor authentication, ensuring that the people entering data into the system are who they say they are – that they have the proper medical credentials and are authorized to access equipment and patient data, said Dr. Bruce Doll, assistant vice president for technology research and innovation at the Uniformed Services University, the government’s health academy supporting the military. Speaking at FCW’s Dec. 2 Health IT workshop, Doll said blockchain could also help protect the privacy of medical records and speed delivery and acceptance of orders or decisions because the need to evaluate the source of the directive would be eliminated. 

In emergencies where decisions must be made quickly, blockchain could help diffuse the “fog of war,” Doll said, by establishing an immutable record of choices, giving leaders documentation about how decisions were reached and reducing single points of failure. Likewise, in medical research, blockchain can establish the provenance of data, ensuring the integrity of shared data and potentially speeding discoveries.

Finally, blockchain can improve the efficiency of supply chain management, reducing the risk of counterfeit equipment. “Using a blockchain to follow the process from actual manufacture to the point where it is delivered to whomever has requested it is considered a great advantage for where this this technology,” Doll said.

While it’s premature to consider using blockchain to track vaccine distribution, the technology is ideal for tracking the vaccine from the manufacturer to the patient, he said.

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