4 Keys to a Successful Blockchain Implementation

Camile Diges offers four factors to keep in mind when you adopt blockchain in your supply

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Camille Diges

To say that business is “undergoing significant change” in the 21st century does not do justice to the chaotic upheaval and breakneck speed that enterprise executives fight to keep abreast of.

Global marketplaces, international supply chains, a web of partners, rigorous oversight and increasing consumer demands all contribute to the complexity and challenges many life sciences and healthcare organizations face.

Yes, technology is coming to the rescue, embodied in automation, artificial intelligence, machine learning, biometrics, blockchain, and the like. However, at first, these technologies tend to contribute to the confusion as businesses strive to understand, implement and benefit from them.


Taking a Closer Look at Blockchain

Blockchain can be described as an incorruptible transactional ledger. Information stored in a blockchain can be added to, but an attempt to change previously-stored data is immediately evident to all participants. Blockchain delivers multiple potential benefits to any pharmaceutical or life sciences organization, including:

  • Transparency: All transactions recorded in a blockchain platform are recorded and accessible to all parties that need the information. Permissioned blockchains ensure that commercially-sensitive information is visible on a need-to-know basis while enabling the participants at large to see data that is important to all.
  • Data Integrity: Since blockchain is a decentralized system, data is recorded in multiple nodes that must reach consensus in order to commit the data to the chain. This ensures that the data is reliable and accessible.
  • Fewer Intermediaries: Blockchain enables peer-to-peer transactions and can eliminate third party “middlemen” in the process. This reduces the cost of doing business by allowing businesses to interact directly without having to pay a third party.
  • Automatic Execution of Business Protocols: Smart Contracts enable members of the blockchain community to agree upon the requirements for each business process. When the requirements are fulfilled, the Smart Contract immediately executes the terms – whether that be a transfer of payment or the release of goods.

Related: Read our guide to how blockchain will change the pharmaceutical supply chain

For example, a blockchain can help secure a pharmaceutical supply chain that consists of multiple vendors by facilitating the sharing of information, improving transparency and collaboration for all stakeholders. This can prevent therapeutics from being diverted into the black market. On rare occasions when there is a problem with the therapeutic itself (e.g., a contamination or a temperature breach that makes the drug ineffective) the information is immediately available and action can be taken. This protects public health and safety and enables manufacturers to change their plans to address potential shortfalls in availability.

Regulators also have clarity into the issues that occur and can intervene in near real-time to prevent the release of spoiled product and trace the source of any issues or diversions.


Four Keys to Successful Implementation

Taking advantage of new and disruptive technologies is always a daunting task – and implementing a blockchain within a business is no exception. Fortunately, there are four keys to implementing a successful blockchain to enable organizations to reap the many benefits that blockchain can provide. Specifically:

  1. Define the problem. Business issues that are especially amenable to blockchain involve multiple parties or organizations that would benefit from better sharing of information and transparency, or that need to align to regulatory standards.
  2. Start small. Identify a project that will generate a return on investment in the shortest amount of time. An eight- to twelve-week engagement that proves the ability of blockchain to solve a key tactical or strategic issue is appropriate for a proof of concept. This allows you to become comfortable and familiar with the technology and delivers a “win” for your business without committing too much in the way of time and resources.
  3. Consider potential long-term ramifications. As an example, the implementation of Smart Contracts will require the advice of the legal team to ensure that the technology meets federal and international law. Also, moving from a centralized to a decentralized system will bring with it the need to rewrite governing processes that could impact workflow and supporting infrastructure.
  4. Security is a major consideration when blockchain is integrated into the current enterprise architecture. The news headlines have reported multiple instances where blockchain breaches have occurred due to phishing emails, VPN attacks, compromised endpoints, and the like. Blockchain itself is touted as being incredibly secure. While that is so, when you implement a blockchain, it will tie into many other systems that are part of your standard IT infrastructure. These systems are at risk for attack and, if breached, hackers can gain access to your blockchain and hijack it.

By following these steps and considering the role that blockchain can play as part of the broader business goals and strategy, life sciences and healthcare organizations can make blockchain work for them, and more importantly, for the customers they serve.

READ MORE: Are we moving beyond blockchain hype?


Camille Diges is global director for Life Sciences at Blue-Bell based Unisys Corporation. She brings over 15 years of experience and deep knowledge of software and product development for biotechnology and alliance management for the Life Sciences industry. She can be reached at Camille.Diges@unisys.com.