Epic deploys Covid-19 vaccine credential feature
EHR giant Epic has launched a Covid-19 vaccine credential that patients can access via their MyChart patient portal.
Similar to a paper vaccination card, the Epic vaccine credential binds an individual’s identity — that is, their name and date of birth — with their Covid-19 vaccination or lab result information. The credential presents as a QR code within a person’s MyChart account. They can then use the code, either directly from their smartphone or printed out from their computer, to verify their vaccine status when needed.
“What we are trying to do is provide an option…for patients to feel safe and secure,” said Nick Frenzer, implementation executive at Verona, Wisconsin-based Epic, in a phone interview. “What we’re doing is we’re tying your name, the vaccine lot information that you received and your date of birth so that it can be verified against an ID and that’s it. It doesn’t give any more access to your medical record; it doesn’t give any more personal information.”
The vaccination credential has been available since June 29, but it took a few weeks to get the feature up and running among customers. The University of California San Diego was the first to pilot the program.
Currently, 25 million people have access to the vaccine credential within their MyChart portal. Epic aims to extend the credential to 70 or 80 million by the end of the year and 100 million by 2022, Frenzer said.
The credential was born out of Epic’s work with the Vaccination Credential Initiative, which launched at the beginning of the year. The coalition included several high-profile organizations, including Mitre, Microsoft and Mayo Clinic.
Together, the coalition developed a technical vaccine credential design with two goals in mind: make it easy for patients to use and make sure it keeps information secure, Frenzer said. From there, they created a specification that is a technology-agnostic, standards-based communication method that all the coalition members have access to.
Epic then coded the specification into its patient portal so it could be used to access the QR code that can be verified by a digital reader.
“We’ve done all the coding and all the prep work, so for our customers, all they need to do is…a simple update and load that in their system,” Frenzer said. “It takes a day or so and then it turns on for the patient without any action needed by [by the provider].”
After a provider has verified a patient’s vaccine status — whether from their own records or from the state’s immunization database in cases where the patient was vaccinated at a retail health location or other vaccination sites — it is incorporated into the medical record. Once the provider “switches on” the vaccine credential feature, the patient will be able to see the QR code in their portal.
But what about those who don’t have easy access to technology?
Epic developers had to be mindful of the fact that not everyone has a smartphone, computer or even internet access. In these cases, doctors’ offices can print out the credential for patients that may not be able to get it in any other way.
“We had to make sure this [feature] was socially equitable,” Frenzer said. “You can get it on a piece of paper without access to any technology.”
Photo: Matt Debnar from Epic