The Atlas ID platform.
Image: Atlas ID

Now that experts see the global coronavirus pandemic extending into 2021, HR tech companies like Atlas ID are offering risk-mitigating platforms for employers to create a safer workplace until an effective vaccine can be deployed or infections plummet.

This spring, the employment verification platform Truework announced that it was building a COVID-19 tracking tool for HR teams to securely verify the health status of employees.

Atlas ID launched in early July to help US businesses create a process for accessing and sharing important COVID-19-related health data in a way that it says is secure and regulatory compliant. At the same time, the company touts private and secure end-to-end encryption similar to WhatsApp to keep test details confidential and in the hands of employees.

SEE: Return to work: What the new normal will look like post-pandemic (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

In its announcement, the company’s CEO, Ali Davar, said, “The process of reopening businesses must be built on trust between employers and their employees.” He added, “Transparency, along with employee participation, are keys to creating a safer workplace.”

Atlas got its start as an employment verification provider, but switched gears to health data once the pandemic hit because “we thought it was a pressing need,” Davar said in a follow-up interview, adding that it would get to “employment data beyond this—the long-term vision remains the same.”

“At a technology level,” Davar said, it doesn’t matter if it’s employment or health data, “it’s just about making that end user be the keeper of the data, in control of their data.”

That’s what makes the Atlas ID platform different from other products, where data goes right to the employers, he added, because they’re the ones paying for it.

Here’s how Atlas ID said its software platform works, according to a press release, “It offers employers multiple tactical options to reduce risks posed by the virus and the ability to select specific tactics best suited for their respective workplace needs.” Those include:

  • Store a tamper-proof essential employee letter that individuals can carry with them and display at any time.

  • Enable employees’ virtual self-reporting of symptoms before going into work.

  • Support proactive viral testing to help identify people that may be infected at work and contagious, but asymptomatic or presymptomatic.

  • Through a mobile QR reader, use any mobile tablet or device to set up checkpoints anywhere in the workplace to confirm that employees have met the employer’s requirements before entering that space.

  • Option to record proof of data stored on blockchain so there is an immutable time-stamp for audit purposes.

Privacy expert Debra Farber is an adviser to the company and noted in the announcement that “Atlas ID has, by design, built privacy into its architecture.”

End-to-end encryption is meant to address “the technical debt of the last four decades,” where the underlying architecture of security has not changed that much, Davar said.

One silver lining of the pandemic, he added, is that “people really care about privacy.”

“We may be able to break through this technical debt and provide them—because they care about privacy—the security and privacy controls around their data, give them more transparency on how it’s being used.”

In addition to end-to-end encryption, other key features of the Atlas ID COVID-19 Risk Mitigation Platform include features like:

  • Tamper-proof and fraud-resistant: Individual employees maintain control over their information and can decide when and how to provide their self-attestations and test results with employers as well as credentials (such as an essential employee letter) with the public/local officials. Both employers and employees can be assured that they can’t tamper with this information.

  • Works with all government-approved diagnostic companies: Atlas ID is provider-agnostic and will integrate with all major HCOs and EHRs and platforms.

  • Blockchain-based audit trail: Provides employers the option of an unalterable record of what they have done to protect their employees’ health and safety that they can use as evidence in the future.

The company notes that it does not provide COVID-19 tests, but that it has licensed partners in all 50 states.

“We’re at a fork in the road,” Davar said. “We can go down this kind of dystopian future, where we don’t know where our data is, who’s doing what with it, and breaches are happening. That’s where the problem is; our data is all over out there. We don’t know what’s being shared behind our backs between parties, employers and health and lenders, and all that.”

“We imagine a very different future,” he said, “a future where people are in control of their data and they’re empowered to use it.”