Today’s guest columnists are Lauren Sexton, founder and CEO of the health technology company SafeSite, and Aaron Earls, a SafeSite senior advisor.
As we look to 2022, omicron is a cautionary reminder that COVID-19 is a constantly evolving pandemic, and one that will likely continue for the foreseeable future as new variants emerge. The question for businesses and consumers is this: How do we get back to pre-pandemic “normalcy” of safely enjoying indoor public events such as sports events, concerts or eating out at restaurants? What solutions need to be in place to do so effectively and efficiently?
Through providing COVID-19 health management services since the beginning of the pandemic, we have learned that people are craving social experiences, but they want to be safe while doing so. A recent story in The Wall Street Journal pointed out that no-shows among concert ticket buyers are up 20%, and at least some of those staying home are concerned they might contract the virus and spread it to vulnerable loved ones. Implementing COVID-19 health checks (i.e., checking one’s vaccination and/or testing status) prior to entry helps keep sites safe, and, until now, it has been laborious and costly for businesses and consumers. As a result, this often-manual process created a disincentive for governments to require COVID-19 health checks and for businesses to implement a policy unless they were required to do so.
With the emergence of new variants and an evolving social understanding around pandemics, it has become apparent that businesses should adopt health checks in 2022 to offer their customers safer indoor experiences, since new technology now makes health checks fast, affordable, effective and safe. Below we provide a road map for how businesses, from large stadiums to local restaurants, can efficiently manage health checks using new technology solutions.
- Offer Health Checks for Entry and COVID-19 ‘Safe’ Sections: Much like smoking and non-smoking sections from a bygone era, special arena sections can accommodate patrons who want to be safe (e.g., immunocompromised, older), even if there are no government requirements in place. Customers and staff will appreciate it, if not demand it of businesses in 2022 and beyond. Health check policies will become the new norm.
- Use Technology vs. Manual Health Checks: Manual checks typically require allocating additional staff in an economy where there is already a staffing shortage. This process is also less safe since it adds further pressure to an already strained staff, which can lead to a perfunctory health check process—creating room for human error, especially given the lack of true health care experience.
- Use a QR Code-Based Solution: Scanning a QR code that shows people’s COVID-19 health status is key to making health checks fast and efficient versus a manual process. QR code technology showing people’s COVID-19 health status will become standard for indoor entry into most businesses in 2022 and beyond.
- Make It Simple and Intuitive: Consumers and staff of all ages and technology proficiency need to be able to easily use the technology, making it accessible to everyone. Customers need to be able to easily upload their CDC vaccination card and/or a COVID-19 test, and staff need to be able to simply scan a customer’s QR code while visually checking their license as well.
- Choose Software Over Hardware: Health check solutions that do not require investing in hardware both decrease the cost as well as require less space, which is often a vitally important consideration for small urban businesses where space is limited.
- Make It Affordable: Health check technology should be accessible to every business and free for every customer.
- Utilize a Universal Technology: Our economy crosses state and international boundaries, so our technology experience should as well. The technology should work in every state, if not every country, for every business, location, and every consumer.
- Ensure Health Check Technology Is Nimble: Given the evolving nature of how best to minimize the impact of COVID-19, including varying and often changing vaccination requirements such as boosters and testing requirements, technology needs to be built in a way that can be quickly updated to reflect new requirements.
- Respect Health Privacy: There is a reason HIPAA compliance was created. People want a safe experience, which includes health privacy. Therefore, QR code readers will require technology companies to be able to transfer the status of a consumer’s COVID-19 health without sharing the personal details of their health data. In other words, the QR code will be able to notify the business that the customer is compliant with their COVID-19 health requirements without sharing the specifics of their vaccination and/or testing details.
- Make Convenient Testing the Norm: We know testing works. There is a direct correlation between frequent testing and minimizing the spread of COVID-19. Many businesses (conferences, airline travel, sporting events, concerts) are offering customers onsite testing options.
Thankfully, technological advancements now provide a win-win solution for consumers and businesses that enable groups and companies to intelligently and efficiently deliver consumers’ safe on-site experiences. Solutions exist to ensure we can all get back to safely having the in-person indoor experiences that we all love.
Prior to founding SafeSite, Sexton was COO of Medical Nutrition Network in Los Angeles. Earls is a marketing, communications and sales executive with more than 20 years of experience working with major brands.