March 11, 2020, the day the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic either seems like eons ago or like it was yesterday. Where did the last 20 months go? The impacts of COVID-19 are broad and lasting. Our changed lifestyles, our social interactions, the way we work, and sadly the downtime and struggles for those who contracted the virus or those who lost the battle against it. Everyone has and is continuing to adapt to guidelines designed to lessen the impact and keep people safe.
On September 9, 2021 President Biden signed two executive orders mandating vaccines - one for federal workers and contractors and another for all employers with 100 or more employees to ensure their workforce is fully vaccinated or produce a negative COVID-19 test weekly. The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), was charged with delivering guidance for employers in order to maintain a safe workplace. This guidance, finalized and released on Nov 5, 2021, is called an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) and employers with more than 100 employees must comply.
Some industries, like healthcare, are familiar with policies and guidelines that mandate various types of vaccinations (e.g., Influenza, TB, Hepatitis, etc.) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has already released COVID-19 mandates for health providers. But most other employers don’t mandate vaccinations as part of their routine human resources operation. For those organizations that are considering how best to comply with the COVID-19 ETS, there are some things to consider including how to gather relevant information, understanding how to protect sensitive employee data and data retention. ,
While there will be many discussions about specific employer guidelines, organizations will immediately need the support of technology to streamline the data collection process. Subsequently, employees will need to be educated and trained on how to use the system and adequate communication should be delivered to help administrators and users best understand the process, security and intent of the program.
Here are a few things to consider as organizations begin this process:
Security and Privacy. Employers need a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) compliant records system that can integrate with HR or payroll systems or import employee data to start the employee education and outreach process. Only those who “need to know” should have access – security and auditing will be imperative.
Communication. Templated emails or text messages to engage employees and collect data and documents will further streamline the process.
User experience. Employees will expect a straightforward, easy to use experience so they can move through the process quickly. Navigation to report vaccination status, upload proof documents, testing results or accommodation requests must be intuitive.
Visibility. Dashboards and reporting are critical – these will help employers see the employee status by important factors such as work location, job category, geographic residence, and be necessary for compliance reporting.
Affordability. Adherence to various guidelines and mandates has strapped many budgets. Leveraging technology solutions that are affordable and extendible help mitigate this challenge. Look for technology that meets the requirements, is cloud ready for easier deployment, subscription-based to use as you need vs. a licensed model with ongoing maintenance fees, and efficient and straightforward implementation services to keep compliance costs reasonable.
Timeliness. Setting up a vaccine verification solution in a rapid deployment environment means delivery in a matter of weeks – as opposed to a typical multi-month process. Choosing the right solution and technology partner is vital to ensuring your solution is delivered quickly and meets the unique needs of your organization.
At CGI, we’ve successfully implemented countless mission critical systems, including vaccine management solutions for public health agencies to streamline the process for vaccine scheduling and inventory control. We’ve extended this successful platform to Employer Vaccine Verification to meet this critical compliance regulation.