Viewpoint: For vaccine passports, the less tech, the better

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Vaccine passports — however controversial they might be — continue to be a hot topic as officials and businesses navigate the reopening process. To protect patient privacy, minimizing tech's integration in vaccine passports may be the best route, according to an April 20 report by The New York Times.

Reducing technology in vaccine passports is the more effective way to preserve patient privacy, simplify use, win patient trust and remain cost-effective.

Health technology nonprofit PathCheck Foundation, said technology in healthcare should be as minimally invasive as possible. Ramesh Raskar, MD, founder of PathCheck, offered insight on how vaccine passports pose a threat to patient privacy and how the process can be simplified.

States are maintaining records of which residents are vaccinated. Some of the early efforts to create vaccine credentials replicate these databases with patients' protected health information and allow others to access this information, like when providing vaccine credentials at the door of a sporting event.

Early technology approaches to digital vaccine credentials create a lot of middlemen that have access to PHI. Each layer of technology added increases the possibility of sensitive data leaking out.

Some tech companies advertise their products as using minimal technology in their vaccine passports, but Dr. Raskar said these products are often still complicated by tech as companies try to "throw a lot of 'smarts' at the problem," such as blockchain technology.

Instead, Dr. Raskar suggests utilizing a system where a one-time code is transmitted with only the necessary details: the person's identity and proof of vaccination. This would only require relevant information to be communicated between a patient's phone and state records. An ID may be required as well.

What is really needed is "dumb technology" that does as little as possible and knows as little about us as possible, the article said.

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