You’ve gotten your COVID-19 vaccinations, now what do you do with your paper vaccination certificate? Fold it up into your wallet? Stash it away with your passport and other important documents?
Through My Health Connection, UCHealth’s patient portal, you can easily find your electronic COVID-19 vaccination card to view on your phone or print from your desktop computer.
“No one knows exactly what is going to be required, but we want to make sure we provide enough options for our patients to ensure they have what they need for wherever they are going,” said Nicole Caputo, UCHealth’s senior director of experience and innovation.
Currently, UCHealth patients can access medical information, test results, schedule appointments, and message their physicians through My Health Connection. When COVID-19 vaccines became available, My Health Connection added a “Your COVID-19 Information” button that allows patients to view their COVID-19 vaccination record and most recent test result. A vaccination record card and detailed testing information, which third parties may require for things like entry into a concert or sporting event, or to travel, has recently been added.
“We want to provide as much information as possible so patients have as much information as they may need, in one spot,” Caputo said.
The best way to verify vaccinations, test results
UCHealth’s COVID-19 information page will soon be enhanced with the SMART Health Cards Framework, which provides paper or digital versions of your clinical information, including vaccination records.
UCHealth joined forces with organizations such as Microsoft and Mayo Clinic as a member of the Vaccination Credential Initiative (VCI) to harmonize standards and support the development of SMART Health Cards.
VCI, created in January 2021, is a voluntary coalition of public and private organizations. Its goal is to create a trustworthy and verifiable copy of digital or paper vaccination record forms that can serve as credentials for medical purposes and to show vaccination status — if required — to return to work, school and travel.
“We want patients not to have to download or use other applications to verify their test results or vaccination record,” said Chad Chenoweth, director of information technology for UCHealth. “Our SMART Health Cards implementation is meant to be a convenience for the user so they can easily scan with VCI-capable third parties versus needing to carry paper (verification). Our UCHealth mobile application and My Health Connection are already secure and contain a lot of other patient information for patients to make it easy for them to access their information on the go. This is an added convenience.”
The SMART Health Cards Framework VCI developed is an open-source code, Caputo explained. This means it is free for anyone to build within their current program.
“VCI is putting it out there for the greater good of public health,” Caputo said. “It makes sense for all these organizations to come together to build this tool — a verifiable health information tool to help in a public health emergency.”
UCHealth has prototyped the VCI’s specifications within My Health Connection, providing feedback to the VCI team to help with gaps in documentation or areas needing improvement. The application is now being tested by VCI to ensure its compliance with all protected health care regulations, Chenoweth said.
A verified immunization record
From the UCHealth consumer view, the SMART Health Cards would be in the form of a QR code within My Health Connection’s “My COVID-19 information.” A QR, or quick response, code (“quick” referring to the fact it’s quickly readable by a cell phone), uses a combination of spacing as a type 2D barcode that when scanned, can convey a wide multitude of information. They were invented in 1994, but you might have seen QR codes more recently during the pandemic at a restaurant to quickly pull up their menu on your phone when paper menus become a source of concern for spreading COVID-19.
Individuals and businesses can easily create QR codes that link to their online pages, like their menu or an event. But the QR code within My Health Connection is different. Because it is secure data, whoever is scanning the information must have a VCI-capable app allowed to read that protected health information.
“If you or I were to scan that code with our phone, it would be jumbled information that doesn’t make sense,” Caputo said.
What about people without smartphones? Although the most convenient way to share your COVID-19 health information would be to bring the QR code up on your smartphone via the UCHealth app, people without a smartphone will still be able to print off their QR code via My Health Connection on their desktop computer.
There are more than 300 members of VCI collaborating to support not only the development but also the testing and real-world use of implementation guides needed to issue, share and validate vaccination records, according to the VIC website.
UCHealth My Health Connection users can expect to see the QR code in their COVID-19 vaccination cards, possibly by fall 2021.
“We want to make sure patients have access to test results and their vaccinations,” Caputo said. “We want to give patients extreme flexibility with their information as we don’t know who will be accepting what, who will scan codes, or what information will be required. … It’s nice to be part of a larger coalition to solve this problem together.”