SafeFun: the social digital health passport
Carson Hager, the President of SafeFun, spent the best part of 2020 developing the new consumer-facing app that enables people to share COVID-19 test results and vaccination status with friends and family.
SafeFun is a free digital health passport that allows users to voluntarily and easily share records with everyone from friends and family to employers and public venues. The community-focused digital document wallet combines industry expertise with technology and data science, for people around the user to feel comfortable knowing they have either undergone a recent negative test or received an approved vaccination.
"We originally created SafeFun to help people get comfortable going out again" Hager says. "Our thinking was that if people knew everyone in a space had a recent, verifiable, negative test or vaccination, they would we more comfortable going out to eat, going to a bar, going to the gym, going on dates, etc.
"Being in the nightlife business, giving people additional comfort backed by science could mean life or death for us and others in our industry. We felt we had no choice but to build it so we literally worked around the clock for months to make it happen. When people started to use it, the feedback we go most often was that they also wanted to use it with friends and family so we added the ability to share your status with people you know."
The platform has "follower" and "following" categories, similar to those on social media channels. Once downloaded, users can search contacts and request friends who then have the option of approving requests so they can monitor and determine who they’re comfortable gathering with in their vetted social network.
The app not only offers on-demand access to records anywhere in the world at any time, but it also provides visual cues to help users immediately identify when they – and the people in their sharing network – are up to date on tests and vaccinations.
All the data is encrypted end-to-end and never viewed by a human unless a user requests support on a result or vaccination record. And while users can grant access to their passport information to other users, they can't give the actual test result or vaccination documents as those could include other sensitive information.
Hager explains that they made a decision to not use AI to analyse uploaded documents. "We chose to not use AI to make it more difficult for fraudsters to slip through" he says. "Although using AI likely would have made the job of supporting hundreds (if not thousands) of testing centres easier, we decided to instead create a system that relies upon strict rules within each PDF format to help prevent fraud."
The platform runs on Microsoft Azure cloud, and is available for Android and iOS. It's currently in use in all 50 states of the US as well as in Canada, parts of Latin America and the UK. "Our goal is to help people everywhere get back to living" Hager says, "get back to family, friends, dating, concerts, sports, travel, and nights out on the town.
"Our architecture allows us to support the widest range of testing facilities and vaccination centers providing people nearly everywhere a dramatic increase in comfort in getting back out there."
How health plans can reduce healthcare inequalities
The COVID-19 pandemic has put inequalities accessing the healthcare system in the spotlight. Jim Clement, Vice President of Product & Services at cloud provider Inovalon, tells us that health plans play the most integral role in advancing the health equity movement.
Why did it a global pandemic to highlight the issue of healthcare inequities?
Health inequity in the US has been well understood by healthcare professionals for many years, but it has become more evident due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It wasn’t until the racial and ethnic differential seen in response to COVID-19 related infections, deaths and vaccinations that many Americans became acutely aware of the health inequity due to sociodemographic factors such as race, geography, education and income.
Fortunately, there’s now a growing health equity movement afoot in America which aims to improve public health and achieve equity in health status for all people by ensuring opportunities are available to attain the highest level of health. While the entire healthcare ecosystem is important to this transformation, it is health plans that arguably play the most integral role.
How can health plans help?
Achieving health equity means obstacles to health must be removed, including poverty, discrimination, powerlessness, and lack of access to the basics like physicians, hospitals, medicine, technology, and health education. This is not only a social justice initiative, but also a clear call to action for health plan organisations that are bearing the economic brunt of the costs due to health disparities.
Health plan organisations that recognise the alignment between efforts to improve health equity and broader member engagement initiatives will be in the best position to move the needle. Plans must also understand that the provision of medical services within hospital walls, physician offices and other health services providers is necessary, but not sufficient.
By recognising that health inequity also includes non-medical factors such as employment, income, housing, transportation, childcare, and more, plans will be better equipped to ensure their members are set up for success.
What do healthcare providers need to do generally to address inequities?
Outreach by both health plans and providers is critical to ensuring people have knowledge of available services, the reason those services are critical to their health, and options to access those services based on their unique circumstances. With both stakeholders beating the same drum, progress can be made quickly.
Given the impact of social determinants of health (SDOH), should healthcare providers take a more active role in addressing these, or other agencies?
While communicating with patients is critically important, what is truly required to address inequalities is helping patients take medical actions – like regular PCP visits, monitoring A1C and accepting health coaching – that are necessary to maximise their health, along with non-medical actions –like availing themselves of community resources that address homelessness, food insecurity and employment services.
The most progressive providers and payers have or are putting in place programs to address these non-medical issues. In addition, non-medical tools such as transportation services can certainly help drive the effectiveness of medical services.
How important is it to educate patients about their health and how can this be done?
Education is a social determinant of health and a key lever to be used to drive health equity. Patients who do not understand their medical conditions or the consequences of non-compliance with their treatment plans are prone to poor outcomes.
For health plans, understanding member needs is one of the biggest drivers of quality care. A continuous cycle of engagement through feedback and appropriate responses will provide health plans with an opportunity to uncover, discuss, and resolve problems faster.
Improving member outreach and engagement can be made easier with a programmatic approach involving four stages of intentional outreach: Getting to know your members, educating members, seeking feedback from members and gaining member loyalty. Each stage not only contributes to a better member experience but also to improved outcomes and higher satisfaction scores.
Now that the issue has come to the fore, what do you think things will look like in 5 years or so?
I predict that health plans that get member engagement, education and equity right will achieve better health and greater value, faster. Those who get it wrong or delay will suffer the consequences of competitive disadvantage and pay a larger share of the rising costs associated with health inequity.