The COVID-19 pandemic is bringing unprecedented changes to how we all live and work. It goes without saying that we are far from doing business as usual and it is even questionable whether “business as usual” can ever return.

Around the world, however, the response to these new changes has been inspiring. Luxury fashion houses have retrained their teams to make hospital gowns and car manufactures have mobilized and retooled their facilities to build ventilators. Healthcare workers have continued to put themselves in harm’s way, day after day, to do what they can to keep their patients safe. Throughout the healthcare system, access to personal protective equipment (PPE) has been an ongoing concern.

For much of the year, healthcare providers and public health authorities around the world have desperately scrambled to acquire the supplies and equipment needed to keep their heroic teams healthy and safe. However, in a pandemic we also now know that the situation can change fast. Proactive communication is difficult when you’re struggling to keep up, and this work is made even harder by inscrutable, overwhelmed supply chains. It is also sad to see that some government agencies, hospitals and charities trying to acquire these supplies are sometimes further undermined by questionable brokers and opportunists inflating prices, or even counterfeiting goods. Visibility into the supply chain, timely connections and trusted interactions are desperately needed.

See how IBM Blockchain is responding to COVID-19

Introducing Rapid Supplier Connect

To help, IBM looked to its experience in the healthcare and government sectors, its innovative blockchain capabilities and its supply chain technology with the hope of identifying and adapting new solutions to help responders battle the pandemic. By harnessing existing solutions like Trust Your Supplier, built by Chainyard, in-market technology solutions, and by identifying more innovative ways to see and share data, we think we can help ease the extreme burden on the current systems.

The result is IBM Rapid Supplier Connect network, which is designed to provide support for supplier identity using blockchain technology. It aims to help enable buyers in the U.S. and Canadian healthcare and government sectors including hospitals, state procurement divisions, medical device makers, pharmacies and state and local governments, to find supplies and services in an unconventional marketplace with greater efficiency.  Finding, vetting and then securing new suppliers takes time, more time than the public authorities and private sector can afford. And while businesses large and small are re-organizing to begin making these needed supplies, these companies often come from outside the traditional healthcare procurement system and are thus less likely to have existing connections to the healthcare and government entities who are desperately trying to buy from them.

While many are rightfully focused on the immediate need for protective equipment like gowns, surgical masks and gloves, the acquisition and deployment lifecycle of equipment like ventilators, respirators and medical tests will be ongoing. As we push into the new normal, hospitals, state procurement divisions, pharmacies and the rest of the healthcare sector will continue to face an unconventional marketplace. Rapid Supplier Connect can help members of these essential supply chains continue to find the vendors, materials and tools they need so that time and attention can be focused on addressing the current and ongoing requirements as a result of this pandemic.

Moving supplies to where they’re needed most

We are already working closely with organizations at the front lines of the pandemic, including Northwell Health, New York’s largest healthcare provider, and The Worldwide Supply Chain Federation, which is onboarding more than 200 American suppliers from its 3,000 global community members. Thomson Reuters will provide access to its CLEAR customer due diligence tool, to provide buyers with access to near real-time and comprehensive data to vet suppliers and identify potential fraud risks. These organizations are using Rapid Supplier Connect to more quickly identify and onboard suppliers. It complements their existing procurement systems and they can then transact with suppliers using whatever method they prefer. By providing healthcare organizations and government agencies with a wider pool of suppliers, there is opportunity to reduce the time to get equipment and goods to the location where they are needed most.

How to join Rapid Supplier Connect

The Rapid Supplier Connect network runs on the IBM Blockchain Platform, hosted on IBM Cloud, and works as a digital passport for supplier management. The purpose-built network is available at no charge to qualified buyers and suppliers through August 31, 2020, to bring together vetted suppliers in one place.

Buyers can be on-boarded in as little as approximately 30 minutes, and suppliers can either be invited by one of their buyers or can reach out here to be vetted as a supplier on the platform. These and other innovations IBM is offering supports our global community during this time of crisis. For more information about the Rapid  Supplier Connect network or to attend a webinar please about join the platform, please visit this page.

Learn more about IBM Rapid Supplier Connect

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