Privacy, security, trust, and interoperability are the pillars of a successful rollout of digital health passes but finding common ground across nations — and between the health and travel sectors — will be among the most challenging barriers to the restart of mass international travel.
Digital health passes issued by different authorities may struggle to gain universal acceptance until common standards can be agreed, according to a panel of experts brought together by the Asia Travel and Technology Industry Association (ATTIA) via a video link-up.
“In Asia Pacific there are multiple regulators offering Covid tests that may produce different outcomes,” said Lance Little, managing director Asia Pacific for healthcare specialist, Roche Diagnostics.
“While there is standardisation from a quality perspective, there is variation on what a test is. Different types of tests can provide different information.
“Therefore, which piece of data are we transferring through the travel system so that issuer and the verifier are understanding the same thing? It’s complicated, particularly in Asia Pacific where every country essentially has its own regulator.
“A test result that may be approved in Vietnam may not be approved in Malaysia,” Little said.
Simon Talling Smith, president of Common Pass, the Commons Project, said finding a trusted solution for digital health passes was “a slippery fish” that was hard to catch, while Little said digital health passes had to be flexible, “because things will change as we move forward, we’re still in the learning stage with Covid".
Both Sandeep Makhijani, Watson Health leader, IBM, and Mieke de Schepper, managing director Asia Pacific with Amadeus IT group, said whatever solutions are found for a common digital health pass, they should be integrated into systems already in place.
“When we talk about security of data, there is a framework for existing solutions out there,” said de Schepper. “Amadeus already provides technology for travel agencies, airports and airlines and we can draw on existing practices to support digital health passes.”
She said Amadeus handles private and confidential information such as credit card and passport details that complies with stringent international regulations governing the use of data and how it is shared through the travel system.
“One of the challenges for travellers right now is that they’re afraid of crowds and they don’t want to queue. So digital health passes need to operate behind the scenes. No one should have to put a phone in someone’s face to show a QR code.”