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This S’pore Startup Made A “Passport” For COVID-19 Test Results So You Can Travel Seamlessly

Singapore currently has plans to form Air Travel Bubbles (ATB) with other nations, various green and fast lane arrangements, and has since opened up its borders to China and Australia.

It will allow for travel without quarantine, provided that the traveller’s Covid-19 test results are negative.

However, these results are issued as physical documents, which can be easily tampered, misplaced or lost.

This sparked the idea of a Digital Health Passport — a blockchain-based solution and mobile app — which allows users to conveniently access and store digital Covid-19 test results.

We speak to Deep Tech catalyst SGInnovate and Singapore-based startup Accredify, the powerhouses behind this innovation, to learn more about this new “passport”.

Facilitating The Reopening Of The Travel Industry

Singapore travellers need to obtain Covid-19 swab results as part of Singapore’s pre-departure test (PDT) before outbound travel is granted.

As the pandemic tested Singapore’s healthcare sector, we saw a gap in the large-scale management of medical records, which were mostly in a paper format.

One of the issues of such an approach was that paper-based certificates did not provide a high level of trust and assurance for officials who would be verifying the documents, given that they could be easily tampered and falsified.

Simon Gordon, Deputy Director, Venture Building, SGInnovate

This led SGInnovate to partner with Accredify during the height of the pandemic to create a Digital Health Passport to facilitate more efficient large-scale management of personal Covid-19 medical records.

SGInnovate works with technical founders or startups to create products that address market needs and form the basis for viable businesses.

Accredify’s CEO Quah Zheng Wei and SGInnovate’s Deputy Director Simon Gordon / Image Credit: SGInnovate and Accredify

They have garnered expertise in planning, developing and commercialising Deep Tech solutions for the healthcare sector.

They sought out Accredify to co-develop such a solution, given their proven track record of creating blockchain-based digital certificates for other applications.

Within two months, they were able to develop and pilot the Digital Health Passport.

Healthcare providers are able to easily issue digital Covid-19 test results in a secure and tamper-proof way, which are then automatically made available to individuals on the mobile app. 

This will help to streamline processes for the various parties, from healthcare providers to immigration and airlines involved, as we reopen travel.

Quah Zheng Wei, CEO, Accredify

Individuals not only have full control over the access to their health data, they can also store their test results and healthcare records securely on the app.

When required, their records can be displayed on the app via a unique QR code.

The Digital Health Passport app
Image Credit: Accredify

This eliminates the need to reveal personal health information or to carry around paper documents that can be easily misplaced. 

Alternatively, immigration officials can easily scan the traveller’s QR code in their Digital Health Passport for immediate verification and authenticate Covid-19 test results while minimising touchpoints and contact.

Currently, authorities are required to contact the medical clinic that issued the Covid-19 swab results for individual travellers to verify.

This process would be unsustainable in the future when high volumes of travellers would cause enormous hold-ups and delays. 

Quah Zheng Wei, CEO, Accredify

Working With Hospital Groups, S’pore Ministries

Now, the solution has been expanded to support the safe reopening of the travel industry following the success of the pilot.

Accredify is working with more than 60 clinics in Singapore and Hong Kong to issue Covid-19 swab results.

One of these partnerships is with Singapore’s largest private integrated healthcare provider Parkway Pantai.

Parkway Shenton
Image Credit: Parkway Shenton

The clinics under Parkway Shenton are amongst the first in Singapore to issue verifiable digital travel credentials to travellers, which can be viewed on the Digital Health Passport.

They have also partnered with Gleneagles Hong Kong Hospital, which will use the Digital Health Passport when issuing Covid-19 test results to travellers using the Singapore-Hong Kong Air Travel Bubble, when it eventually launches.

Essentially, the Digital Health Passport is like a “pocket guide” that you bring on your travels in a post Covid-19 world.

Free to use, the app is scheduled to be released on the App Store and Google Play Store by the end of January 2021. 

Zheng Wei shares that they are also working on app features such as a pre-departure checklist that displays a list of health declarations, and travel documents required for entry into destination countries.

Accredify's CEO Quah Zheng Wei and SGInnovate's Deputy Director Simon Gordon
Accredify’s CEO Quah Zheng Wei and SGInnovate’s Deputy Director Simon Gordon / Image Credit: SGInnovate and Accredify

They are also working on a clinic locator feature that searches for the nearest clinics that issue Covid-19 PCR tests.

Moreover, whenever there are changes made to a country’s list of required healthcare or travel documents, the app will be able to reflect real-time information.

Why It’s Important To Leverage Deep Tech In The Fight Against Covid-19

Built on the OpenAttestation framework by GovTech and leveraging blockchain technology, the Digital Health Passport can generate tamper-proof cryptographic protection for each medical document.

Blockchain technology provides added security, transparency and privacy in data management and has opened up new opportunities.

For example, it makes it possible for healthcare providers to share and authenticate data across borders and with insurers for verifications of medical claims, without the need to open up third-party access to their internal networks.  

Quah Zheng Wei, CEO, Accredify

Users have full ownership of their heath data — from selecting what to share to setting expiry timings for the sharing of documents over email or messaging platforms.

Furthermore, over the past months, we have seen how Deep Tech, such as AI and blockchain, played a major role in the fight against Covid-19, especially in the medical fields.

Medo.AI's Ultrasound solution
Medo.AI’s Ultrasound solution / Image Credit: IMDA

For instance, one of the companies in SGInnovate’s portfolio, Medo.AI, a MedTech startup, adapted their AI-assisted ultrasound solution to diagnose Covid-19-related lung conditions, allowing medical professionals to monitor and manage patients in a timely manner. 

Another example is Lucence Diagnostics. They originally work on early cancer detection, but have used their expertise in the medical field to develop the SAFER-Sample saliva collection kit.

This kit allows for samples to be transported back to the lab at room temperature, in contrast to existing collection systems that require samples to be constantly chilled. 

At the end of the day, the pandemic has magnified the importance of using technology to address big global problems and continued innovation will help prepare businesses and economies in the “new normal”. 

Simon Gordon, Deputy Director, Venture Building, SGInnovate

Featured Image Credit: SGInnovate / Accredify


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