Care & Health 15th April 2021 - 6 min read

The Data behind Digital Health Passports

By Joni Lindes

As of April 13th 2021 in the United States, about 75.3 million people have been fully vaccinated. In the UK, more than 5 million people have received their second dose. The travel industry has long been waiting for the moment where widespread vaccination will spur traveller and consumer confidence and set the wheels in motion for travel industry recovery.

Digital Health pass

Vaccine rollout is not the only obstacle stopping us from accessing travel with less restriction. We don’t just need people to be vaccinated, but, in order for border restrictions and mandatory isolation to be eliminated, authorities need to determine the health risk for every traveller crossing borders. A Digital Health Pass or Passport has now become a major focus for travel industry development and innovation.

Current Digital Health Passes

At this current time, we are still in the developmental stages, with several digital health passes being produced. The current passes being developed are:

The CommonPass

Created by the Commons Project and the World Economic Forum, the non-profit CommonPass is built on the Common Trust Network made up of airlines, laboratories, airports and healthcare organisations. More than 350 public and private sector organisations from 52 countries have been involved in designing this common framework for safe border reopening.

The digital health pass includes a QR code confirming that travellers have satisfied their destination’s entry requirements, such as a negative Covid-19 test result or vaccination.

With the support of Airports Council International (ACI) – an organisation representing 2,000 airports – CommonPass has been trialled with Cathay Pacific, United Airlines, JetBlue, Lufthansa, Swiss and Virgin Atlantic airlines on select flights and routes. Qantas is also in the process of assessing the app.

IATA Travel Pass

Developed in partnership with the International Airlines Group (IAG) and Vueling, the IATA Travel Pass is an open-sourced solution allowing travellers to access information on the health requirements, testing and vaccination centres for each country while simultaneously providing border authorities with confirmation that the traveller meets the country’s health requirements for entry. This includes information on vaccines and test results for the traveller to present to authorities. It also links to an electronic copy of the user’s passport to prove their identity. All information of the traveller can be accessed via a QR code. The IATA Travel Pass has been set to launch on the Apple platform in mid-April. Android will take a bit longer.

ICC AOKPass

Launched in partnership with the International Chamber of Commerce, medical and security services firm International SOS, and inspection, verification, testing and certification company SGS, the AOKPass allows users to have control over their medical data. Using blockchain technology, AOKpass is built to be decentralised, meaning medical records are stored only on each device and will not be shared or stored elsewhere. It can also be accessed via mobile phone or through a printed QR code.

It is currently being used when flying between Abu Dhabi and Pakistan as well as by the government of Singapore to verify health of travellers arriving from Malaysia and Indonesia. AOKPass is being trialled by Alitalia Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Air France and Etihad Airlines.

VeriFLY

American Airlines, British Airways and Iberia have introduced a free mobile health passport called VeriFLY that can be used to fly into the U.S. from abroad.

The app certifies negative test results and required travel documentation to streamline the travel journey and is voluntary. The app uses the same secure mobile wallet as a digital bank account.

IBM Digital Health Pass

Designed to bring people back to work and back to travel, the IBM Digital Health Pass uses blockchain technology that allows individuals to share their health status through an encrypted digital wallet. This pass has integrated with Salesforce to help businesses and schools verify test results and vaccine status.

V-Health

The U.K.-based V-Health app includes a built-in contact tracing tool and a way to make an appointment with testing centres nearby, which can then be added to the passport.

Unlike others, it uses its own technology rather than QR codes to certify test results as they believe QR codes can be faked. The app is now available for Apple and Android devices.

CLEAR Health Pass

CLEAR uses biometrics and simple mobile enrolment to create a single, touchless ID. It links test results to a traveller’s ID. CLEAR Health Pass is available on select flights to Hawaii as well as venues such as the National September 11 Memorial and Museum.

These are just some of the main health pass solutions in play. The digital health pass market is growing with many solutions catered, not only to travellers like the above but also to organisations hoping to certify traveller identity.

What about the data?

The main two challenges when it comes to data in digital health passports is standardisation, and privacy.

Standardisation

This merely refers to the issue of whether these passes and the information contained in them will be accepted everywhere. Every country will have different requirements (vaccination requirements, negative Covid-19 tests etc) and will be using their own form of infrastructure. The advantage of the multiple different digital passes is that, much like what happened with the vaccines, we will get a competitive solution faster.

The disadvantage is that there will be many to choose from and each airline or authority may need verification with a different pass. That means these passes need to be made in a way which encourages interoperability and standardisation – so that they all can be used and officially recognised.

Privacy

While they need to ensure that these passes can work with each other, they also need to protect the personal and medical information they hold. A digital health pass is not just a digital ID but a whole ID infrastructure where more than one party may hold sensitive health data. This poses a risk for third parties to access medical data – something that is of high value to any attacker. In the past five years, legislature like GDPR has done much to protect ownership of personal data. Any development of a digital health pass must ensure that this protection is not undone and that the system does not have vulnerabilities.

The ICC AOKPass, IBM Digital Health Pass and IATA Travel Pass uses Blockchain technology to protect privacy. This works because there is no central database that could be hacked to access personal information. It also means the app providers do not collect personal and medical data themselves.

Although these technologies are gaining traction with governments and airlines, they are very much in the pilot stage. Until we know which systems will become widely adopted it is very difficult to predict exactly what the exact implications are for companies and their employee data.

Companies may first start using these passes to navigate their return to office and then, their return to travel.

In order for corporations to integrate this information into their travel programmes, employee health data (test results and vaccinations) will be required to be included on an employee’s record. This data will need to be shared during the pre-trip approval process or upon the point of booking. Data regarding Covid-19 test results submitted before, during and after the trip may also need to be shared back to the company, so risk can be managed at all stages of the trip and for the employee’s eventual return to the office. This no doubt will have data privacy implications.

Travel managers need to set up their agencies and data infrastructure to support this while simultaneously protecting employee personal data. HR teams need to collaborate with travel to ensure that the company fills its duty of care obligations while still ensuring data privacy and protection. Having a data system that allows for encryption will be key for ensuring data privacy and security.

Read more about how digital health passports and safety are changing travel programme priorities here.

If you would like to know more about how you can navigate these challenges with your current data strategy, book a demo with us.

Joni Lindes
By Joni Lindes
6 min read

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