This article talks about the problems related to Healthcare waste, its impact on the environment and public and how technology, specifically Blockchain can be helpful in solving this massive issue of Healthcare waste. Healthcare waste not only results in environmental degradation but also puts the global and personal health at stake. This massive problem of waste management can be solved with proper accountability and transparency.
With the global concern for health on a rise, the healthcare industry has to work sustainably to meet the demands of the growing market and complete the responsibility to maintain an environmental balance along side it. Healthcare waste can have devastating consequences for the global population if not dealt properly.
Introduction to Healthcare Industry & it’s waste
The Healthcare Market is valued at $8,452 Billion in 2018 and consumes over 10% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of most developed countries. With great revenue comes the great responsibility of maintaining the environmental balance.
There are several kinds of Healthcare waste with around 85% of it being non-hazardous and the rest 15% is considered dangerous. There are several different sources of healthcare waste which includes Hospitals, Laboratories & Research Facilities, Blood Banks & collection services and Drug manufacturers & formulators.
Not only does this kind of waste pose a threat to the environment but it also threatens the overall global and personal health. The release of antibiotics into the environment by the drug manufacturers can aid in the development of antimicrobial resistance which might result in the spread of a superbug around the world.
$455 Billion in Global Healthcare spending is lost in fraud, waste, and abuse.WHO
It is a common practice of pharma retailers or wholesalers to return the unsold medicines to the manufacturer. The United States Government has made it mandatory for manufacturers to confirm the authenticity of the medicines before reselling them. So the manufacturer has two options — to either destroy the medicines or introduce a system to confirm the authenticity of the medicine.
1 in 50 pharmaceuticals are returned to the manufacturer.SAP
Due to the high number of fake and counterfeit medicines in the market, some of the manufacturers are forced to destroy these goods instead of reselling them. These medicines are either burnt under a controlled environment or are released into the environment.
Returned Pharma products account for 1–3% of the annual sales.SAP
It might seem like a small number but these sales account for a loss of approximately $7–10 Billion.
The flow of medicines into the environment can also be contributed to the disposal of medicines by the customer. After the medicines are ingested, between 30% to 50% of the ingredients are excreted out as active substances.
The conventional water treatment plants are not equipped to remove the pharmaceutical waste and the water resources are rarely monitored for the levels of pharmaceutical ingredients in them.
Researchers from the University of York tested samples from 711 sites in rivers from 72 countries from around the world and found high levels of antibiotics from about 65% of the samples.
According to the Guangzhou Institute of Geochemistry of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, more than 50,000 tonnes of antibiotics ended up being absorbed into soil and water.BMC
This antibiotic waste leaking into the environment from the Pharma companies is a driver of antimicrobial resistance or AMR. When bacteria are exposed to antibiotics, they develop resistance against them. These superbugs which are resistant to the existing antibiotics can spread to the world and cause havoc.
How to solve the Healthcare Waste problem?
There are several solutions to these problems and all of them need to be in coherence to make a positive impact on the environment. The adoption of technology is a must for the medical industry.
With the number of medicines going to the bin and the number of people who do not have access to these medicines, there is a need for a system through which the unused medicines can be provided to the needy. This system will be required to be fast and foolproof so that the right person gets the right medicine. Blockchain is the technology that is suitable for this purpose.
The data including prescriptions and payments need to be secure and seamless. This data can be stored on a Blockchain and with the help of smart contracts, the transactions will only be visible to the concerned parties.
In the US, about one-third of 4 billion medicines prescribed each year ends up as waste.OECD
The laws concerned with the donation of drugs strictly prohibit the donor from demanding payments so some other kind of incentive is required. This can be done using the issue of in-app tokens.
Blockchain can be implemented not only to increase the efficiency of the supply chain but also reduce the impact of waste on our environment. With the use of blockchain in the supply chain, the transparency and traceability of the goods is increased and this makes it easy for the manufacturer to keep track of the product.
With this increased traceability, the manufacturers can be dead sure about the authenticity of their product and rather than destroying, can supply it to the region in deficit. Traditional supply chains are slow and inefficient and hence by the time it reaches the manufacturer the medicine is closing on its expiry date.
Blockchain makes the supply chain fast and efficient and decreases the time involved in recalls and transportation. This efficiency can decrease waste disposal by the pharmaceutical companies and reduces their costs too.
This transparent supply chain with the use of blockchain will even keep track of the wastes disposed of by these manufacturers and makes it easy for the concerned governing body to monitor these activities. The immutability of records in the Blockchain adds the required accountability necessary for the system.
AntiMicrobial Resistance has been described as one of the greatest health problems facing the world.WHO
Governments of various countries have programs where they provide tax and legal relaxations to the green companies i.e. those which make a positive impact on the environment. The use of blockchain makes it quite easy for companies to adopt a transparent and green system.
What is the way forward?
With the outbreak of some serious diseases in the past few decades such as the Ebola virus, the Zika virus and the now infamous Coronavirus, corporations and governing bodies need to work together to find a solution and increase accountability in the system. The outbreak of these diseases is closely related to the development of antimicrobial resistance which originates from the irresponsible waste management of the industries.
The Industry is in demand for a radical change and that might be Blockchain. Blockchain will not only help in regulating the waste disposal by the companies but also in their supply chain which in turn would benefit them. It would aid these companies in smartly managing their inventory and their supply chain and reduce the existing wastage.
How QuillTrace helps in controlling the Healthcare Waste?
QuillTrace allows pharma companies to invite all the supply-chain entities on one platform by integrating APIs on their present ERP. These entities can include Raw Material Supplier, API manufacturer, Logistics Handler and even the Waste Disposal Facility.
- Increased transparency in the system provides visibility to the authorities to keep track of the waste management ethics for each product.
- Temperature sensors ensure that medicines are transported in required environmental conditions, thereby reducing the wastage by improper logistics.
- Automation of transactions and document verification using smart contracts saves the time crucial in the pharma supply chain considering the small shelf life of the products
- QR codes guarantee the authenticity of the returned goods which can be redirected to the desirable region rather than destroying.
- Efficient Supply Chain will reduce the unnecessary inventory levels resulting in less wastage
Visit trace.quillhash.com to know more