Blockchain technology has become one of the most exciting developments of the last decade or so in the world of finance, with its primary role in supporting and underpinning cryptocurrencies. However, blockchain is extremely versatile, and can be used across various other sectors to solve a variety of problems, due to its ability to store vast amounts of data in a decentralized manner, but also securely and anonymously. Blockchain can also be much cheaper than traditional data storage and management systems, and thus it is already being used across the likes of healthcare, shipping, supply chain management and gaming, to name a few diverse sectors, all over the world. In this regard, one of the most high-profile uses of blockchain is in the United Kingdom, where two hospitals are using blockchain to track their storage of COVID-19 vaccines.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused disruption on a global scale which is unprecedented, but there is now some hope with vaccines being developed and slowly rolled out globally. There are multiple vaccines developed by different companies, all with different dosages, frequencies of dosage, and storage conditions. Thus, a robust data management system is essential to ensure that these doses are tracked and administered effectively. Fortunately, blockchain systems have already proved their value as effective and reliable data storage systems. One of the best examples of this comes from the online gambling industry, where crypto casinos have been using blockchain to store players’ personal and financial data securely and anonymously. These sites have also begun allowing players to earn cryptocurrencies not only playing bitcoin games, which has made them extremely popular, while the use of blockchain has improved players’ trust as well.
Thus, the use of blockchain networks by these hospitals in the United Kingdom is a welcome sign. Two hospitals in South Warwickshire, part of the UK’s National Health Service, are using a blockchain developed by the British firm Everyware and the American organization Hedera Hashgraph. Everyware is developing the sensors which monitor temperature in real-time, while Hedera is a consortium with support from the likes of Google and IBM that works on blockchain networks. The sensors are being used to track the temperature of the storage areas and refrigerators where vaccines are being kept, with the data then being transmitted to a cloud network, where it is encrypted and stored on Hedera’s blockchain. This is being done to keep a full and tamper-proof digital record of the storage conditions for these vaccines, making it easy for healthcare professionals to track, and know if any vaccines were stored in sub-optimal conditions, for example. This is important, since the different vaccines all have different storage criteria. The Pfizer vaccine, for example, needs to be stored at -70 degrees Celsius, and can only last for a maximum of five days at around 2-5 degrees Celsius, which creates a lot of logistical challenges in storing and transporting it. The Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines, on the other hand, can be stockpiled at temperatures closer to those in average home refrigerators, which makes them much easier to distribute.
The use of blockchain to store this data is therefore extremely important, as it provides a verifiable, tamper-proof database to match data against, and therefore highlight any irregularities immediately. These trials are extremely important, since the Hedera blockchain is also much cheaper than other blockchain providers, and can store much more data, making it the best provider for the NHS, and also providing an effective case study for others in the healthcare space, as well as other sectors, to look at blockchain networks to store large amounts of data in a reliable, safe and quick manner.