We don’t need Dorothy to tell us we’re not in Kansas anymore. It’s going on a year and a half since the COVID-19 pandemic steamrolled our world and our way of life. However, today, with the widespread availability of vaccines, organizations of all types are optimistically, cautiously, starting to re-open.
With these re-openings, many public and private entities, from schools to airplanes, are reserving the right to refuse entry to non-vaccinated individuals. From a public health perspective, this measure could help control outbreaks like it has for other fatal diseases (think measles and smallpox). From a personal perspective, this measure could be invasive and ostracizing for those who do not have access to the vaccine or cannot get it for medical reasons.
While we’re just at the beginning of the discussions about what is ethical versus what is safe, it is clear that there’s no single answer for the whole world. As different countries and individual states in the US choose their own way to approach the issue, a handful of technology companies and nearly all health systems are considering how to make digital vaccination records (DVRs) easily available and secure.
DVR versus Passport?
There are two main ways to digitally share vaccine information right now. You can either share your full digital vaccination record itself—including your identification information and the details of your vaccine on the vaccine card from your provider—or you can use a digital vaccine passport system which simply confirms the fact that you have been vaccinated.
The passport system uses a third-party intermediatory to verify your full digital records and then provides a scannable code, such as a QR code, that other agencies accept as proof of your vaccination. Some will also share COVID-19 test results. While this provides an extra layer of privacy, there are no standards for digital passports and not all QR readers can make sense of all codes.
Digital for the win!
Most vaccine records are stored as part of a provider’s EMR system and must be handled in accordance with regulations like HIPAA. Implementing a DVR or digital passport system requires ingesting vaccination records from the lab, pharmacy, or clinic into the EMR and exporting a single record to the passport structure.
Ultimately it comes down to implementing interoperability solutions that share data efficiently and securely between systems.
While it’s still too soon to know if we’ll get back to our pre-COVID way of life by clicking our heels and hoping for the best or scanning our QR and following the yellow brick road, it’s clear that digital vaccination data will play a role in our global recovery for the immediate future.
This article was originally published on the Lyniate blog and is republished here with permission.