IBM Watson Health’s Blockchain Solution to Pandemic Supply Chain Chaos

In Features 21 by Mary KurekLeave a Comment

By Mary Kurek, Publisher, Frontrunners Innovate

It’s sometime in April 2020, and I get an email from a member of our Frontrunners League sub-group,  Women Leaders in Blockchain.

Shawnna Hoffman

The outreach came from Shawnna Hoffman, Global Blockchain Offering Leader, IBM Watson Health who was telling me about a new project that she and Mark Treshock, IBM’s Blockchain Solutions Leader for Healthcare and Life Sciences, had begun just weeks earlier.  The project was aimed at solving the turmoil involved in the supply chain of securing pandemic supplies, and it involved blockchain, perhaps the one component that would help solve the bottlenecking problems.

Having personally gone through the crash course on procurement in a pandemic in the preceding weeks and understanding the chaos for buyers and sellers, I felt this project could not only be the solution for now…but, for the future of how procurement can heal itself.  And, let’s be smart…if not a resurfacing of the current pandemic, there will be other situations…other disasters that will cause at least some communities to scramble for supplies.  If the disasters happen on the heels of this pandemic, we have to wonder how depleted will those supplies be and how many hoops will our frontlines need to jump through to find what is needed quickly, in a way that they can pay for it, and from someone they can trust.  I don’t even think I need to paint a picture for you on this if you are someone who has tried to secure or market PPE throughout this pandemic.

IBM believes the procurement solution lies in blockchain, and a system of vetting, information gathering, and buyer/vendor matching.  Their solution is a platform called IBM Rapid Supplier Connect™ and the process is making it possible for buyers and suppliers – including non-traditional suppliers joining the fight to help keep hospitals and key support organizations ready – to quickly find each other, accelerate verification and onboarding processes, and gain near real-time insights into inventories of life-saving equipment. It combines a scalable blockchain-for-business network, proven supply chain solutions, and a network of dedicated industry and technical experts.

As Shawnna and Mark laid out the project during a call, it seemed to be quite comprehensive, requiring a good bit of data input from a vendor/supplier, but, the data then becomes immutable and the vetting process takes away the need for that time-consuming chore that the government or hospital entity must do before purchase.  And, speaking of purchase, the platform supports existing supply chain networks and their payment systems, but buyers also have the option to use a third-party paymaster for a fee.  CDAX, which will secure funds on behalf of buyers in a custody and settlement account, will hold goods ordered contractually from the supplier under a consignment arrangement until the buyer verifies acceptance of the order and releases funds to the seller.

Lisa Morales-Hellebo

Among those partnering with Watson Health is the Worldwide Supply Chain Federation, co-founded by Lisa Morales-Hellebo who also co-founded NYC’s REFASHIOND Ventures.  Lisa’s avid interest and experience in solving supply chain issues, starting with, but not limited to, the fashion industry, has been invaluable, particularly to non-traditional suppliers of pandemic products.  Shawnna introduced me to Lisa, who is featured in this edition.  You’ll learn more about her and her story, along with how the Federation is impacting supply chain efforts.

I’m sharing below several news articles about the Rapid Supplier Connect project to encourage pandemic suppliers or buyers to take a look.  This could make your life so much easier as we transition out of pandemic and prepare for whatever else comes our way.

IBM Press Release:


Wall St. Journal:




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