IBM launches blockchain network to bolster medical supply chain during COVID-19

Rapid Supplier Connect is designed to help health systems and government agencies identify and onboard alternative vendors when certain supplies and PPE are in shortage.
By Mike Miliard
04:11 PM

IBM this week launched Rapid Supplier Connect, a blockchain-based network it says can help healthcare organizations, whether hospitals or government agencies, address equipment shortages during the pandemic by helping them find alternative suppliers.

WHY IT MATTERS
Northwell Health, the largest healthcare provider in the state hardest hit by COVID-19, and the Worldwide Supply Chain Federation are two organizations that have joined the network so far, according to IBM.

The goal of the initiative is to help members navigate the challenges and confusion of the pandemic by connecting them to a broader range of suppliers – those who exist outside of their traditional supply chain, who have reoriented their processes to produce much-needed masks, gowns and other personal protective equipment, according to IBM.

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A more efficient supplier-onboarding process, with validation checks and inventory information made available in near-real time, is meant to help streamline the process. Suppliers on the network have portable online identity, access to user feedback, and the ability to post and manage inventory availability.

IBM is using the blockchain-based Trust Your Supplier identity platform, from Chainyard, for qualification and identification, in conjunction with its existing Sterling Supply Chain Suite and Inventory Visibility services.

While Rapid Supplier Connect complements existing supply chain networks, buyers also have the option to use the services of CDAX, a third-party paymaster, for a fee.

As part of the initiative, IBM is working with several other organizations to ensure integrity:

  • Project N95, a clearinghouse for information on COVID-related suppliers, will help vet suppliers
  • Dun & Bradstreet brings its identity resolution, firmographic data and supplier-risk scores
  • RapidRatings provides financial health data on suppliers
  • KYC SiteScan will provide "Know Your Business" due diligence report access
  • Thomson Reuters, meanwhile, is offering its CLEAR customer due diligence tool, giving real-time data to vet suppliers and identify potential fraud

IBM says in most instances it takes just 30 minutes to join the network, and its operational support center can help with onboarding. Big Blue will make the tool available at no cost through August to qualified buyers and suppliers in the U.S. and Canada.

THE LARGER TREND
The coronavirus crisis has presented huge challenges and disruptions to healthcare and other supply chains, in many cases posing big safety risks to frontline care workers who lack sufficient PPE.

Many large and small businesses from outside traditional healthcare procurement processes have stepped in to produce masks, gowns and other essential supplies. But to buy them at scale, healthcare organizations – hospitals, state procurement divisions, pharmacies and others – need help identifying, vetting and gaining insights into their production capabilities.

With rapid Supplier Connect, IBM aims to offer that help.

Of all the many potential healthcare use cases where blockchain can help with security, integrity, visibility and efficiency, supply chain has long been among the most promising.

This week, Healthcare IT News published a guest post from a nurse and health policy master's degree candidate, who proposed a blockchain-based supply network to help address these critical PPE shortages.

ON THE RECORD
"Northwell Health has had adequate supplies to protect patients and our staff during the increase in New York COVID-19 patient cases," said Phyllis McCready, vice president and chief procurement officer at Northwell Health. "It is through creating our own 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."

Twitter: @MikeMiliardHITN
Email the writer: mike.miliard@himssmedia.com

Healthcare IT News is a publication of HIMSS Media

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