In 2022, many companies plan on getting back to business as usual. Or at least something close to it. This includes resuming in-person client meetings, on-site interviews, board meetings, and networking events. Not to mention the vendors required to supply these visitors with coffee, food, tech support, and sanitization. A visitor could also mean a contractor who isn’t on your official payroll. You have to screen all of these people for the security of your workplace, but it isn’t as straightforward when they aren’t official employees. Vaccine credentials are bound to play a huge role in most workplaces’ reopening plans. For companies to stay open, they not only need to verify compliance with vaccine mandates–they also need to assure their employees that it’s safe to come into the workplace. This means verifying the health status of everyone that comes into the office, not just employees.
Challenges with verifying the health of workplace visitors
Digital vaccine credentials are more convenient than carrying paper vaccine proof around. For many people, this just means a photo of their vaccine card stored in their phone. However, sharing the digital proof makes privacy more complicated. They contain sensitive Personal Health Information (PHI) that must be protected against data breaches or misuse. To a visitor, an HR admin at your company is still a stranger. Visitors might be hesitant sharing PHI with someone they don’t know or trust.
Some approaches to tracking visitor vaccine status
Let’s look at a few ways companies have tackled this problem. Evaluating the pros and cons of each can help you determine what’s best for your company.
“Health passport” apps
Throughout history, adversity has inspired innovation. The COVID-19 pandemic is no exception. Several solutions have popped up in the past 18 months specifically designed to allow communities and businesses to reopen safely. In general, these apps let people securely store vaccine records and Covid test results in their smartphone. Some apps, such as Bindle and Clear Health Pass, turn health records into entry passes. They do this by generating QR codes that people can scan to confirm their health status–not only when visiting your workplace, but also other establishments and venues. Pros
- Enterprise-grade security and privacy standards upheld via anonymous entry pass that does not share PHI
- HIPAA compliance: complies with US privacy and security laws designed to protect electronic health information
- Flexibility to be used across any business location that supports the app
- Ability to be stored in government QR-code databases (like this one)
- Not every venue uses the same app for health screening
- Many people don’t like the idea of being monitored everywhere they go. For example, in New York City, a QR code vaccine passport would track every time someone goes to a movie theater, sports stadium, gym, restaurant, or bar. There is also concern that this data could be retained, sold to third parties, or shared with law enforcement.
- Data privacy laws vary across countries and, in the US, across individual states, limiting the interoperability of many of these apps, and maybe even resulting in different apps for different workplace locations.
Some visitor management systems let admins customize the sign-in process. This way, you can ask visitors to physically show their vaccine card to the front desk upon check-in. For example, Envoy’s hidden fields feature lets you assign certain questions to visitors, and others to admins. These role-based questionnaires do not involve official health records, but still provide an extra layer of verification. Pros
- Ability to speed up sign-in by requiring health screening prior to each visit
- Option to allow or require visitors to physically present proof of vaccination
- Extra layer of verification with admin verification
- Providing proof of vaccination with a physical card can be a clunky process that requires extra in-person interactions between visitors and admins
Document uploads sent directly to workplace
This option is a combination of the above two approaches. Using a visitor management system like Envoy, companies will be able prompt visitors to upload health documents via mobile app before coming on-site. That might mean a photo of their vaccine card or negative COVID test. Once a company admin reviews and approves the document, that visitor will be cleared to enter the workplace. This Covid protocol functionality is already available for employees, and coming soon for visitors. Pros
- Completely touchless process minimizes potential health risks
- Allows visitors to get documents submitted and approved ahead of their visit
- Verification by administrator ensures documents meet workplace requirements
- Document review by designated administrators protects PHI privacy
- Not verified by government vaccine database
- Concerns about who will be able to access their information
- Concerns about how long their PHI will stay in the company’s system
Without federal legal protections around sharing vaccine passport data, it’s up to companies to communicate their individual policies. Whichever approach you choose, clearly state your policy on data collection, retention, and sharing. That way, when your workplace opens its doors to visitors, everyone feels safe and welcome.