Paperless vaccination records – it’s smart to digitise the yellow card

The Carte Jaune or Yellow Card is an official vaccination record issued by the World Health Organization (WHO).  It is a type of ‘medical passport’ that is recognized internationally and may be required for entry to certain countries where there are increased health risks for travelers.

Until recently, holidaymakers will have written down their vaccination status, or printed the details from their healthcare provider, to show that they have been vaccinated for going abroad. There is no hesitation in doing this as it’s a requirement for gaining access into a country.  Those records are important because they help us to remember what vaccinations have been received and when booster injections are required.

The difference now is that innovations in health technology mean digital vaccine certificates can be offered.  The WHO calls it, ‘the smart yellow card’.

Our relationship with digital health data 

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual consultations (telemedicine) were on the rise with many healthcare systems advocating a digital-first approach. As the British Medical Journal states, ‘many GPs and specialists turned to video consultations to reduce patient flow through healthcare facilities and limit infectious exposures’.  Telemedicine not only helps to speed up the patient care process but enables those practitioners, who are having to self-isolate, to continue to provide valuable medical care.

The pandemic has made us all sit up and take notice of scientific research in a way that we have never experienced before.  This, coupled with an increase in online medical services, has brought health innovation to our homes and opened the door to learning and experiencing what health technology can offer.

Modernizing everyday healthcare processes will start to become the norm as we see shifts in how governments and businesses will require us to engage as a result of the Coronavirus.  We already see the use of track and trace in the hospitality industry and the increasing requirement to hold a COVID-19 test result in order to travel. 

It, therefore, follows that other forms of personal healthcare information will undergo a digital transformation and move away from paper-based record-keeping.  The technology is there, the question is, how do we feel about digitizing our own health data?

Securely placing data in the palm of your hand

The biggest challenge facing data privacy is trust.  Innovations in health technology must ensure self-sovereign identity.  This means the data that is being held about an individual is owned by the individual and stored on their device. The data can be delivered from healthcare professionals to the device in an encrypted format and the user chooses how they share their own information.  It’s prudent to select applications that use cryptographic

hashing and anonymous ID to ensure that information remains private and secure. Users will need to have control over what they share so all data must be stored on the users’ device via a temporary QR code that expires after several seconds.

Any data that is required to be stored on central servers for data migration should only be temporary and always be anonymized.  This information would then be deleted from the central server as soon as a user has downloaded their data to their digital health wallet.

A Deloitte study found that during the pandemic, more consumers are willing to share personal health information as a result of the crisis.  Trust will come from empathy and the reliability that a company can provide through their solutions with 65 percent of consumers agreeing that they should own their own health data. Users being the custodians of their own data is critical for the adoption of digital health technology, such as wallets that will house test results and vaccination certificates. 

Choosing trusted applications

One of the outcomes of the pandemic is that people are more ready to adopt technology innovation in healthcare because they have seen or used it in other industries. For example, using mobile apps for banking or for storing boarding cards for flights.

For healthcare apps, there has to be a guaranteed ‘trust chain’ so that test results leaving a medical establishment can make their way securely to a person’s digital health wallet.  It’s important that people can choose digital health wallets that are built with encrypted security and have been approved for medical record-keeping. This means choosing apps that have gone through rigorous validation and regulatory approvals and will be listed in the app stores under the medical record-keeping or healthcare categories.

With accelerated innovations in digital health, we now have the choice to store our test results, or any other personal health information, in a secure digital format.  Yellow fever, Rabies and soon, Covid-19, are such examples of vaccinations that can be kept digitally so that personal health information is always at hand when needed.

Health technology providers have a duty to ensure trust and security in the solutions that they provide in order to facilitate the digital healthcare journey.  Digitizing how we store medical information will make it easier and safer to update and manage our own records.  For example, a Covid-19 vaccination requires a second booster injection.  This booster reminder could come directly from the digital health app. 

This evolution in healthcare technology was already taking place and the Covid-19 pandemic has brought it firmly to everyone’s attention.  Now is the time to say goodbye to the analogue yellow card and bring a healthy curiosity to exploring digital health technology solutions that can keep us all fit and healthy.

Adam Palmer, CEO, Tento Health

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