The prevention and control of the spread of disease is one of the central axes of public health systems. These systems carry out surveillance activities that are used to identify new diseases and control existing ones to prevent them from becoming epidemics.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is becoming clear that the surveillance tools of the global health systems are becoming obsolete and are not entirely effective in preventing the spread of this type of disease.

Obstacles arise when sharing information between different countries and administrations, in terms of privacy and security, and in the work of data collection and management.

Investing in new technologies like A.I., Big Data, and blockchain could transform obsolete healthcare systems, and turn them into much more modern and efficient systems. In this sense, blockchain technology has the ability to improve public health activities associated with disease prevention and control. The characteristics of this technology, such as decentralized administration, immutability, or the ability to share data in real time, while guaranteeing the security and protection of data, make it a key tool in improving processes related to health care, record management, disease surveillance and monitoring, and crisis management.

Blockchain disease surveillance and prevention use cases: A blockchain disease surveillance system can provide the means to prevent and control future outbreaks. It would allow local, national and international health administrations such as the WHO (World Health Organization) to access surveillance data and receive it in real time in a secure way. Furthermore, zoonotic diseases could be detected in animals before they make the jump to humans, if veterinary field studies were included in a blockchain surveillance system.

Blockchain disease surveillance and prevention use cases: A blockchain disease surveillance system can provide the means to prevent and control future outbreaks. It would allow local, national and international health administrations such as the WHO (World Health Organization) to access surveillance data and receive it in real time in a secure way. Furthermore, zoonotic diseases could be detected in animals before they make the jump to humans, if veterinary field studies were included in a blockchain surveillance system.

Disease Outbreak Tracking: Blockchain offers much faster data processing, this enables early detection of outbreaks of infection before they spread and become epidemics. Health authorities could carry out much more comprehensive monitoring of virus activity, patient progress, infections and suspected cases. It could also be used to carry out virus traces and find out where the first contagion originated.

Records management: perhaps, the most valuable utility of blockchain in the field of health is as the only source that guarantees and validates the origin of the data. It could be used for records management, to manage data in real time and to guarantee its integrity and veracity, while identifying and eliminating erroneous information about the virus. With the use of blockchain, data collection is automated and immutability makes it impossible to alter any of the records. Those records could include patient data, treatments administered, and any detected progress. Blockchain will also ensure that the data is archived and protected by any unauthorized access, it will allow users to see all the data and trends of the virus in real time, including all the information about confirmed cases of infection, number of deaths, recoveries, etc. In this way, the spread of the disease could be rapidly tracked, giving vulnerable populations vital information.

Crisis management: the use of blockchain could provide governments with recommendations on how to contain the virus. A platform could be created to which governments, health professionals, health organizations, the media and all stakeholders would have access so that they can update each other on the situation and prevent it from worsening.

Security in medical supply chains: Blockchain could be used to track medical supply chains. Blockchain has already proven its success as a supply chain management tool in other industries. Blockchain-based platforms could be used to enable tracking of supplies and logistics of epidemic prevention materials. Since supply chains involve multiple parties (from donors and recipients to warehousing and delivery logistics), each party’s entire registration and verification process is tamper-proof, while also allowing anyone to track the process. This would ensure that doctors and patients have access to the tools when they need them and prevent contaminated items from reaching the population. A blockchain-based system could ensure that vaccines, protective equipment, or tests are shipped to the right places at the right times and in the necessary quantities, and that they are recorded.

The actual situation:

Governments around the world are doing their best to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, as it has demonstrated the potential to become a pandemic. Blockchain will not prevent the appearance of new viruses per se. But what you can do is create the first quick response through a network of connected devices whose sole purpose is to stay alert to disease outbreaks, so pandemics could be prevented by enable early detection of epidemics, rapid follow-up drug trials and management of the impact of outbreaks. With better data accessibility, containment of an outbreak becomes manageable for health authorities. This instant responsiveness can represent the difference between rapid containment and global contagion.

However, although blockchain is one of the most promising technologies in the health area, it is worth bearing in mind that there are still a number of obstacles that will have to be overcome for its large-scale implementation, such as data standardization, costs of operation or legal considerations in different countries.