- IBM Watson Health is launching an app for organizations to check people’s health status prior to letting them in public spaces like sports stadiums, airplanes and workplaces.
- The app, called IBM Digital Health Pass, premiered at the virtual HLTH conference Monday. Users can present a verified health status based on different data sources, such as vaccination status or COVID-19 test, in order to enter public locations, with the goal of avoiding potential virus transmission.
- It’s the latest in a slew of products meant to help U.S. organizations resume activity, including some from big names like CVS Health and UnitedHealth Group launching back-to-work products in recent months. Pricing for IBM’s app is highly variable depending on the sponsoring organization and its needs, an IBM spokesperson said, but declined to share specific figures.
Research suggests a majority of Americans still aren’t comfortable returning to the workplace, but confidence in returning to some businesses and other public spaces is steadily growing, according to a Qualtrics survey conducted in July. But the situation could worsen going into the cold winter months as safer outdoor activities become less of a viable option.
IBM’s app is meant to create confidence in public spaces, allowing businesses and workplaces to stay open and people to participate physically in activities outside the home.
Users download the health pass app, log in and verify their identity. When health data is available, they scan a QR code and add the information to their digital wallet. Then, they can share it to participate in an activity or enter a public space.
Organizations can choose what data sources are required to greenlight entry, including temperature checks, COVID-19 exposure notifications, COVID-19 test results or vaccination status.
The status can be used to enter a stadium for a baseball game, commute to the workplace or board a plane, IBM Watson Health’s general manager Paul Roma said at HLTH. Travel and transportation companies might have a more stringent system for establishing wellness than a restaurant with outdoor seating, Roma noted.
Such applications managing people’s sensitive health information have given rise to privacy concerns, especially when large tech companies are involved. IBM said that security is central to the app.
People can store and manage their health status on their mobile phones and share it with designated recipients without also sharing the underlying data. Health information is stored in an encrypted digital wallet built on blockchain for secure data exchange, IBM said.
Users must also consent to release their health data to be part of their status, allowing them to share scans or a COVID-19 test with the app, but withhold lab results, Roma said. The system also allows data to be exchanged anonymously for cases where identity isn’t necessary.
There’s a large potential market for such tools. An overwhelming majority of workplaces plan to implement temperature checks and health screenings to facilitate reopening, according to to a survey of more than 1,000 companies by employment law firm Littler.
CVS Health launched a workplace reopening product in June for U.S. employers and universities, including a variety of COVID-19 testing options, while Alphabet’s life sciences arm Verily started offering a program combining symptom screening, testing services and data analytics earlier that month. UnitedHealth Group and Microsoft also launched a COVID-19 screening app in May that’s available to all U.S. employers for free.
However, unlike some of those apps, IBM’s does not involve contact tracing or testing.