Now that over half of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, we are looking forward to a return to normal after over a year of restrictions and social distancing. Because people who are fully vaccinated are no longer required to abide by certain rules like wearing masks or maintaining six feet of distance, there becomes a need to provide verifiable credentials that you have been fully vaccinated. These credentials will need to be presented to enter venues with large groups of people like concerts or professional sporting events. Thankfully, through healthcare interoperability, IIS (immunization information systems) along with health IT companies are using data to create verifiable credentials that allow people to get back to living their lives with minimal risk of COVID-19 transmission.
How Can DVCS Use IIS Data?
Let’s explore what standards healthcare interoperability need to meet for a DVCS to be effective
Before we explore all of the ways IIS data can be used to display vaccine credentials, let's explore some of the goals of healthcare interoperability between IIS and DVCS (digital vaccine credentials systems). In the case of DVCS or a vaccine passport application, the IIS data is used to verify the credentials displayed by the application. This means that the IIS data is the verification method that proves the DVCS is legitimate.
Some people may have different vaccination data in more than one IIS database. For these individuals, IIS records should be fully consolidated and easily accessible to the DVCS applications. To achieve this, IIS systems must be able to rapidly communicate with each other or the application must be able to access an individual’s vaccination records from multiple IIS sources.
Increased Patient Access to Vaccination Records
As DVCS roll out, patients now need more access to their vaccination records than ever
Before COVID-19, only healthcare providers were able to access your IIS data. Now that is all changing as people will now be required to present their credentials to return to normal life. Due to this demand from patients and healthcare providers, IIS systems are now allowing patients to access their records directly.
This democratization of IIS data presents several challenges for EHR integration when it comes to technical limits and data security. For example, IIS systems will now have to be able to support both patient and clinician access. To achieve this, an IIS system will have to adapt to accommodate twice the normal number of users trying to access the immunization data.
Most recently, the federal government has been working to remove “information blocking” which prevents patients from having direct access to their data. As we progress through the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become clear that giving patients more access and transparency in their medical data will help us more rapidly emerge from the pandemic.
SMART Card Development
With the introduction of the SMART card, individuals will be able to independently access their verifiable credentials
When people finally have access to their verifiable credentials from their smartphone, it will likely be in the form of a SMART card. A SMART card will be an open-source and accessible mobile phone application that will easily access your verifiable credentials. Already, many of the country’s largest private health organizations participated in working with the app developers to begin rolling out the SMART card program.
The organization in charge of the application development, the VCI (Vaccine Credential Initiative) aims to create both a digital and physical way to verify vaccine credentials, though the physical component is still in development.
Another important aspect of the SMART card development is that it will be provided at no cost to the patient. SMART cards are different from the CDC vaccination status cards because the CDC cards cannot be officially verified.
Healthcare interoperability between IIS systems and health IT providers will keep all information anonymous and prevent fraud
As health IT providers continue to develop the SMART card, questions about privacy and security become paramount. All healthcare records must be kept completely confidential, yet everyone needs to have access to their records. To overcome this contradiction, healthcare IT professionals have created anonymous verification that will allow patients to download their records directly from IIS data. Though this technology is not the same as a SMART card, it can give patients direct access to their vaccination status without third party interference.
Ensuring Equity Protections in DVCS
COVID-19 can affect every individual, that's why it is so important that vaccine credentials are readily available to everyone
There has been a great divide in terms of vaccine access and distribution. Statistics show that rural populations are not receiving the vaccine at the same rate as urban populations. This issue of trust and technology bleeds over when it comes to SMART cards and DVCS. For those in rural areas or for older populations that may not be as technologically literate, DVCS may not make sense or could seem invasive. For those that are not technologically literate, some companies are developing ways that vaccine credentials can be printed at a patient’s primary care provider. However, there is still the issue of consumer trust in the vaccine credentialing systems that still must be overcome.
Thanks to the VCI, there have been major strides made with healthcare interoperability last year to meet the needs of the COVID-19 pandemic. Soon, we will be able to return to large events and international travel without transmission. As healthcare IT developers and IIS systems work together to improve our access to essential vaccine information, they are reopening the doors to a post-COVID-19 world.
Iron Bridge remains ahead of other healthcare technology companies by providing leading IT solutions in data technology, aggregation, public health management, and patient access systems. Contact the team today to learn more about Iron Bridge’s innovative health IT solutions.