It seems that politicians and business leaders across the country have been doing a whole lot of head-scratching these days. President Joe Biden says he wants to require 2 million federal workers and contractors to provide proof they’ve been vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus. Here at Pixel Health, our leadership team has issued a similar directive.
We’re not here to argue the politics of so called “vaccine passports,” but it’s clear that national momentum is shifting in that direction and everybody seems to be hung up on how to do it. As the editors over at Politico said the other day, the honor system isn’t going to cut it (there’s an actual black market out there in fake vaccine cards). There are privacy and ethical concerns for sure, but no one should be wondering about “a network of vaccine registries, portals and apps to confirm if someone got the shot.”
According to our resident expert, the answer is Blockchain.
Bill Evans is the President of Liberty Fox Technologies, Pixel Health’s software application division.
“When deciding to use blockchain technology, one of the determining criteria is always, ‘when many parties need a single version of the truth,” and that clearly applies here. Blockchain is also based on the premise, ‘trust but verify,’ and the technology allows for the verification of data accuracy. “If everyone’s sharing a single version of the truth, then it doesn’t matter that I have a New York or Florida or Pennsylvania vaccination record. No matter where you are in the world, you’re only pulling from one distributed data set. As long as everyone agrees to enter a minimum number of common data points, blockchain networking is the answer.”
From a security perspective, if the blockchain is not public (i.e. Bitcoin) but permission based instead, only authorized users have access to write to the network, with the ability to control reading privileges as well. Evans says that blockchain also eliminates the need for a network of vaccine registries to store the data. “All the nodes on the network would store data, much the way EHR data is stored today; but with blockchain, the information is shared along the network at a similar or lesser cost.”
As for ethical concerns, blockchain is not in-and-of-itself the answer, but how it’s implemented can be a solution. “I can have the right to control my vaccination record and have the right to share it with only those people I want to share it with. Blockchain technology makes it possible,” says Evans.
Politico quotes Dr. Robert Wachter, Chair of the Department of Medicine at the University of California who remarked, “it seems like the country that invented the Internet and the iPhone should be able to pull this one off.”
Dr. Wachter, we already have.