Preparing for Digital Health Passports

Vaccination rates across the United States are rising. As the CDC and the administration continue to ease restrictions around the pandemic, many of our military and government agencies are ready to resume travel. For a safe return to travel, you might need to provide a digital health passport (sometimes referred to as a digital health pass, wallet or ID) in the near future.

In the beginning of the year, American Airlines and British Airways started allowing passengers to confirm COVID-19 travel requirements using the VeriFLY app. Brands like VeriFLY and others, such as CommonPass and Travel Pass, are designed to validate your health information, match it with the travel requirements where you are flying and provide travelers with a convenient way to provide both COVID-19 test results and vaccination records. 

Our CWT team has quickly broken down the premise of digital health passport technology:

  • An individual receives test results completed at an accredited healthcare facility or lab.
  • The information is then electronically delivered or uploaded to the individual’s digital health passport or wallet on their smart device.
  • If the test results or proof of vaccination meet an established set of requirements for a specific destination, an indicator or QR code validating the individual is allowed to travel would be produced.
  • When traveling, the individual would present the app data/QR code to an airline, airport or other government entity and is then ready to travel.

While this might seem straightforward, the travel industry worldwide is facing a number of risks and challenges while attempting to implement these digital health passports. The first roadblock is data security. According to this article by Business Travel News (BTN), many companies are avoiding requiring digital health passports while waiting on the results of extensive data-privacy impact assessments. Health data can be considered “sensitive data” and could lead to a liability issue if the digital passports are required as opposed to something employees can opt to use.

There is also not yet an international standard for validating and accepting testing results and vaccination records. Another potential issue is the risk of creating a confusing and cumbersome experience for travelers who would need to use multiple apps in order to prove their vaccination or health rather than one streamlined option.

According to Brandon Balcom, Senior Director of Innovation at CWT, “Time will tell whether open standards will be set across the industry and governments to allow business travelers the convenience, ease and peace of mind of navigating one solution they trust, versus navigating a fragmented network of solutions and single use health passes. We see glimmers of hope in places like the European Union and framework for its Digital Green Pass. However, CWT is closely engaged across trade associations and with leading solution providers. Our desire is to support efforts that help you, our clients, quickly and safely return to travel.”