The health and economic crisis generated by Covid-19 confronts us with a new challenge: the security of remote sick leave processing for hundreds of millions of workers due to the explosion of cases of the Omicron variant.
Biometric verification of individuals’ real identity is a crucial tool to give certainty to each of these health procedures that will be carried out every day in the coming months in the form of an administrative tsunami.
In this article, we propose as a use case a system of biometric verification of the real identity of the citizen remotely to help manage the hundreds of thousands of simultaneous sick leaves that are already occurring in many countries around the world.
Present and future of sick leave by Covid
The socio-health and economic crisis caused by the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic confronts us with problems never seen before. At each pandemic stage, new social needs arise, as we have already experienced with the Covid passport and its use and authenticity to stop indoor contagions.
With this new wave dominated by the Omicron variant, a recent crisis is looming, affecting the healthcare system, citizens, companies and the social security system. Many casualties due to Covid-19 infection or close contact are causing significant problems in health centres and hospitals to treat thousands of patients. But it is also affecting the workforces of companies, with many people on sick leave, confined by close contact or caring for positive family members.
This situation is creating very complex problems to manage due to the high volume of sick people and the fraud that can be generated. Many regions are beginning to take positive results in antigen self-tests as valid.
Identity and application issues and insecurity
Generally, to process a person’s leave from work for Covid-19, they must go to their doctor for a PCR or antigen test. Once positive, the doctor generates the sick leave form, which will prove the employee with the related company. The company, in turn, must process this temporary leave of absence with the country’s administration.
But recent changes in pandemic tracking in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Italy are forcing healthcare personnel to generate sick leave remotely, without seeing the patient and without even seeing the positive antigen test.
This leads us to a scenario of uncertainty about the veracity of the request and even the identity of the people requesting a Covid-19 positive sick leave. How can we reduce this uncertainty and facilitate the work of healthcare workers, companies and the patients themselves?
Real identity, an essential deterrence tool
In this new remote process for processing sick leave, which is indefinite for the time being, people’s real identity plays a fundamental and dissuasive role against possible healthcare fraud, as well as with companies and Administration.
We are talking about millions of people who will face this situation in the coming months. Thousands of healthcare professionals, who are health experts and not in identifying a person remotely, will devote a large part of their time to blindly validating illnesses and sick leave.
For this reason, an accurate and automated biometric verification (reviewable) of individuals’ real identity, associated with their identity document, is a crucial tool to give certainty to each of these hundreds of thousands of healthcare procedures that will be carried out every day in the coming months.
Video-identification for sick leave processing
In Spain, the Public Administration has tools for carrying out procedures or remote assistance with citizens with a high level of security. The Resolution of May 25, 2021, by the Secretary of State for Social Security and Pensions, enables Spaniards to carry out procedures and actions through telephone and telematic channels thanks to remote video-identification systems and biometric identification systems. This means that the necessary tools already exist for secure remote communication between the Administration, in this case, a healthcare institution, and citizens.
Citizens already have what they need to use this technology to simplify their relationship with the Administration: a computer, tablet or smartphone with a camera and microphone, Internet connection and their ID card or another official identity document. It’s that simple. And to all this process, you can add an extra layer of security, with the manual review of the video-identification by a person after the fact. The simplicity of the process is explained in the following graphic.
The solution for processing sick leave due to Covid-19 (or other diseases) could be centralized through a digital portal. The citizen performs a complete video identification (document validation, biometric verification by selfie and proof of life) and shows his positive self-test. Then, manually, a healthcare professional would validate or not the entire test and would agree to process the sick leave.
From Veridas, and by analogy to other national regulations, we designed a biometric video-identification process that, at least, has the equivalent security to the face-to-face (according to the eIDAS Regulation), in addition to having the accreditation of a third party entity, such as DEKRA.
To provide robust security to this process, the Government of Spain establishes the following rules for the development of biometric video identification and face authentication in the Security Guide of the National Cryptologic Center:
- Evaluation by NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology), the independent reference institution in the field of biometrics in the United States.
- Inclusion of anti-fraud methods.
- An anti-fraud method in the document.
- Human review after the fact.
- Integrity in the process in time and device.
- Real-time identification.
- Biometric facial validation scoring.
- Communication security protocols.
· Security in identity verification. Through biometric video identification, a level equal or superior to a face-to-face identification of a citizen by a healthcare professional is achieved. We are sure that the person requesting the discharge is who they claim to be, detecting any anti-fraud action in this process.
· Health security. The contact of thousands of healthcare professionals with millions of people infected by Covid-19 is significantly reduced, thus reducing the possibility of doctors or nurses falling ill and their consequent sick leave.
· Optimization of resources in primary care. Healthcare personnel would reduce the time dedicated to each Covid-19 positive patient to verify their identity and positive test.
· Convenience for the sick person. Millions of people would not be obliged to go to their health centre to carry out this procedure and would be able to carry out this telematic management whenever they need to, without suffering the daily telephone traffic jams to which primary care is subjected.
· Citizen privacy. No citizen data is stored on the provider’s servers.
· Fast, global and accessible. The video-identification system could already be implemented in the Health Departments of Spanish regions and other countries. In addition, the requirements demanded of the citizen are accessible: a smartphone or computer with a camera, microphone and internet connection, and their identity document.
· Transparency with companies. This solution is transparent for the companies in which citizens work as they could automatically receive the sick leave issued by healthcare personnel. It also serves as a deterrent to absenteeism, which has grown to more than 7% by 2021.
Biometric video-identification verification systems would provide certainty in the millions of Covid-19 sick leave procedures that dozens of countries are already experiencing.
Faced with unprecedented health and administrative avalanche, it is essential to manage all Covid-19 sick leave procedures remotely and with maximum certainty in every action since the health systems. The economies of countries and companies are at stake.
To provide maximum certainty in the integrity of the individual’s identity requesting sick leave, the critical tool is video identification (document validation, biometric verification by selfie and proof of life) and a positive self-test sample.