The U.S. Army Medical Materiel Agency's Distribution Operations Center, which distributes vaccines for the Department of Defense, received a FedHealthIT Innovation Award at the National Press Club in Washington, DC., June 11.
The event, which brought together more than 300 federal health leaders from government and industry, recognizes pioneering people and programs in both the public and private sectors. The USAMMA team earned recognition for a recent project that evaluated the potential efficiencies of using blockchain technology to track temperature-sensitive medical product orders and shipments.
"Our goal was to explore, as a proof-of-concept, how blockchain-based supply chain management could potentially improve our operations and help us track shipments of temperature-sensitive medical products, such as vaccines, administered to deployed Soldiers and their families," said USAMMA Distribution Operations Center Deputy Director Liz Andrews.
Blockchain is a technology that gained significant importance as a means for executing and managing digital currency (e.g., cryptocurrency) transactions. Since cryptocurrency has no physical form, developers needed a way to validate its value and protect its ownership. Blockchain serves as a digital ledger that automatically and safely accounts for each transaction as a record, or block, of data. The blockchain network is decentralized, so anyone can see the record at any time and no one owns the entire record - so it isn't easily falsified without breaking the entire chain. Today, blockchain technology is not only used in the banking and financial services industries, but it is also growing in use within the health industry to protect electronic health records and within the educational system to validate educational records.
Andrews explained that the team partnered with IndraSoft, Inc., which developed a vaccine-tracking point-of-contact application using blockchain technology. The project tested how this application might enable greater real-time inventory visibility while improving operational efficiency for multiple organizations, including the Department of Defense, the Defense Health Agency, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"Our current system of record is functional but also very manual, and it does not provide visibility for all stakeholders," Andrews explained. "In the future, a blockchain application could help us break down some of our supply chain silos and streamline integration with our customers worldwide."
Moving forward, Andrews said will use what they have learned during their proof-of-concept project to refine their requirements. They will also work closely with USAMMA's information management and technology experts to better understand network security and risk management requirements.
"IndraSoft views blockchain as a transformative technology for secure supply chain solutions as well as other complex, distributed use cases. We have focused on developing our blockchain solutions to enable reliability, integrity and transparency for distributed transactions, particularly in trustless network environments," said Indrasoft President and Chief Technical Officer Raj Lingam. "We appreciate this opportunity to drive greater automation, enable secure supply chain, create greater connectivity across defense supply networks, and improve transparency and traceability in vaccine supply chains for U.S. Army."
USAMMA is a subordinate organization of the Army Medical Logistics Command, part of the Army Materiel Command. The AMLC's mission is to project and sustain medical materiel capabilities and data in order to build and enable readiness for the Army and Joint Forces.