Applying AI to COVID-19 vaccine distribution involves separate issues in the supply chain: demand forecasting, supply chain management, quality assurance, and monitoring of adverse events.
The way in which the bits are flipped on each of these bits differs from state to state. Some governments place an emphasis on senior citizens at risk, while others place an emphasis on lowering eligibility.
For example, Sanford Health in South Dakota uses a machine learning model to determine which people are at greatest risk for serious COVID-19 outcomes and then applies the model to eligible groups IT news for healthcare.
“We can capture a real-time image that evolves over time by using computer learning to determine which patients or people in the Midwest are getting the sickest from COVID-19,” said Sanford chief medical officer Dr. Jeremy Cauwels opposite Minnesota Public Radio (MPR). He sees the approach of using AI as more equitable than a random choice for administering the vaccine.
Others share this view, especially companies with products and services intended to be sold in this market. “The pace and scale of vaccine adoption is unprecedented and we are seeing AI play a role,” said Lori Jones, chief revenue officer and provider market president for Olive, a provider of health-specific AI services. “We still have an important mission ahead of us, and if we cannot expand the capacity of organizations that supply the vaccines to take in more patients faster, there is a very real risk that this process could take years, not months,” She noticed.
Among its services, olive Technicians can convert frequently asked questions into chatbots and activate digital call centers with AI functionality to better handle planning and pre-registration, and communication around vaccine distribution.
Taking demographics into account in the hope of a more equitable distribution
With higher COVID-19 rates in color patients– –especially Black, Latinx and Native Americans– –Some health systems find it important to consider demographics. Shiva Bidar-Sielaff, chief diversity officer at UW Health, told MPR that the University of Wisconsin-Madison incorporated the race into their algorithm to prioritize the initial distribution of vaccines to employees.
“It’s incredibly important to understand that all of the data suggests that unfortunately, race and ethnicity pose a much higher risk of hospitalizations and deaths for COVID-19,” said Bidar-Sielaff.
“When we looked at our algorithm, we noticed that you were adding age and SVI [social vulnerability index]This is a multiplier effect on how much higher a person’s risk of hospitalization and death is, ”she explained.
Getting the vaccine where it needs to be on time is a challenge for the supply chain and an opportunity for well-positioned software vendors. Genpact, the technology and business process company outsourced in the United States, has developed software for its customers in the pharmaceutical industry that can be used to track batches of drugs as they move through a supply chain.
The COVID-19 vaccines are challenging, Eric Sandor, head of Genpact’s pharmacovigilance AI business unit, explained in a report in capital. Batches can be manufactured by different contract manufacturers in separate facilities, which leads to discrepancies. Individual batches of vaccines need to be stored, and which batch was used to vaccinate each one needs to be tracked for safety reasons, Sandor explained.
Blockchain technology seen as helpful
Blockchain technology could be useful for tracking cans in the supply chain, as some suggest. IBM markets “object-based supply chain management software that allows the location of each vaccine bottle to be tracked in near real time and compared with the vaccine,” said Tim Paydos, the company’s global general manager for the government industry. IBM uses its Watson Health Analytics software to match postcode level data on demographics and health status and attempt to predict demand. IBM used the software earlier in the pandemic to track supplies of personal protective equipment, Paydos explained.
In another challenge, most supply chain software packages have been designed to be used within a single organization. However, COVID-19 vaccine doses and related deliveries need to be tracked through a chain owned by many different parties– –Drug manufacturers, courier companies, hospitals, pharmacies and various branches of government. They don’t all use the same software and some could be Competitors who are reluctant to share data or may be subject to regulations and compliance rules that make data sharing difficult.
IBM sees this as an opportunity for blockchain technology, whose digital ledger system underpins cryptocurrencies. This ledger could provide a trustworthy, secure solution, Jason Kelley, general manager of Blockchain Services at IBM Global Business Services, stated that the chain of custody is demonstrable for every vaccine bottle intended to be used by every organization in the chain. IBM is currently in discussions with several drug manufacturers to sign up for this blockchain-based solution in order to create a “minimally viable ecosystem” for its adoption.
IBM is working directly with vaccine supplier Moderna on vaccine distribution approaches that maximize visibility and real-time tracking Supply chain. The overall goal of the project is to accelerate the exchange of information between governments, healthcare providers, life science organizations and individuals.
“Moderna is committed to working with a coalition of partners to increase education and awareness of the importance of vaccination in combating COVID-19,” said Michael Mullette, VP, general manager, North America Commercial Operations, Moderna. “We look forward to working with IBM to use digital innovation to build connections between organizations, governments and individuals and build trust in COVID-19 vaccines.”
The two companies plan to investigate vaccine management solutions for end-to-end traceability that they hope will anticipate disruptions in the supply chain. They also plan to collaborate on a digital health passport solution based on blockchain technology to help individuals control their personal health information so that it can be trusted and shared securely.
“As governments, pharmacy chains, health care providers and life science companies continue to scale and connect their tools and new players enter the supply chain, open technology can help create greater transparency, build trust, while ensuring accessibility and equity in the process “Said Kelley from IBM.