As more private employers take the necessary steps to comply with state and federal mandates for tracking COVID-19 vaccinations and testing, many of them are seeking out solutions to make the effort as easy as possible.

Spreadsheets are often the first option to come to mind. After all, they are a “free” option and it’s fairly simple to set them up, even if you only have basic Excel experience. Unfortunately, that's where the advantages end.

Let’s take some time to break down exactly why it’s not a great idea to use spreadsheets for tracking vaccinations.

The limitations of spreadsheets

While spreadsheets are not the worst option for smaller employers that are only trying to monitor vaccination and testing for a handful of workers, they fall short for larger employers with 100 or more workers. Under the new OSHA rule, these larger employers are legally required to track vaccination status and testing for unvaccinated employees. This means that they must collect data from hundreds or even thousands of people and maintain records to ensure compliance.

Spreadsheets simply aren’t equipped to tackle that level of complexity or scale. A better option is to roll out a dedicated application that is specifically designed to collect vaccination and testing data, such as the Vaccine Tracker App. Let's dig a bit further into the disadvantages of spreadsheets.

1. Spreadsheets are tedious – for employers and employees alike

Manually collecting data from hundreds or thousands of people and then ensuring that data is entered correctly into a spreadsheet is a nightmare. It’s especially tedious when you consider the unvaccinated testing component of recent mandates, which requires employees to submit new data on a weekly basis and employers to keep records of that data. That's a lot for managers and HR teams to keep up with while also maintaining their regular job responsibilities. It's not too fun on the employee's end either.

Compared to spreadsheets, an application like the Vaccine Tracker provides a more accessible and mobile-friendly user experience for employers and employees alike. By making the tracking process as easy as possible, you can reduce barriers to access and maximize compliance. Applications also help employers reduce the time they spend agonizing over spreadsheet cells through the power of workflow automation and stronger verification features that circumvent the vaccination tracking “honor system."

2. Lack of exception handling

The lack of exception handling is, by far, one of the biggest limitations of using spreadsheets. As mentioned earlier, in addition to tracking vaccination statuses, employers must also have workflows in place for handling exceptions involving unvaccinated people, such as:

  • Enforcing weekly COVID-19 testing and documenting results for compliance purposes.
  • Collecting attestation for medical or religious exemption requests.
  • Escalating contact tracing in the event of positive test results.

If these workflows aren’t automated, employers must devote significant administrative resources to sending out follow-up emails and weekly testing reminders, receiving proof of test results via email or text, manually updating employee data on a weekly basis, and keeping an eye out for instances of non-compliance that must be escalated. Depending on the size of the workforce, that can add up to several hours of work for administrative staff per week.

Exception handling is where vaccination tracking application shines. An application like our Vaccine Tracker handles exceptions with ease. If an employee indicates they are unvaccinated, the system triggers automated workflows and reminder notifications that help keep employees accountable to testing requirements.

3. Reporting and proving compliance is a headache

When tracking vaccinations, collecting the data is only one piece of the pie. Being able to make sense of that data through reports is just as important – especially for workplaces that must submit weekly or monthly reporting to regulators to ensure they are following through with mandates.

For example, when managing weekly testing for unvaccinated personnel, it’s helpful to have reports that tell you who has been tested and not tested that week, as well as see that data broken down by department or worksite. This allows employers to identify problem areas quickly and stay in compliance.

Unfortunately, this is yet another area where spreadsheets stumble. Using spreadsheet data to create reports and dashboards for these purposes can take hours, while a dedicated application takes only minutes.

4. Poor collaborative and integrative capabilities

Many organizations need vaccination data to make decisions, whether it’s deciding if facilities need to close temporarily due to an outbreak or determining if incentives should be offered for vaccinations. These kinds of decisions may require collaboration across different departments or worksites. In some cases, organizations may wish to share public-facing reports of their vaccination and testing data on a dedicated website for all to see.

This level of collaboration and transparency is difficult to achieve with a simple spreadsheet, which is limited in its capability to integrate with other data sources or applications.

For example, K-12 schools may need the ability to integrate with district data. Unfortunately, a spreadsheet isn’t powerful enough to enable pushes and pulls from HR information systems or applications like ClassLink single sign-on.

5. Poor security and data privacy best practices

While the way employers store employee vaccination data is not covered under HIPAA, it’s still important for organizations to treat their employee’s private data with care and respect.

Unfortunately, improper data sharing is not uncommon with spreadsheets. An application designed to help you track vaccinations and testing, on the other hand, will be provide a secure environment (e.g. SOC2 and HECVAT certified) and have the ability to add or remove decision makers and create rules-based permissions.

6. Prone to errors and instability

On top of poor data security, spreadsheets are more prone to human error. It’s easy to input incorrect data, alter or delete data, mess up conditional formatting, or even lose files completely – often without even realizing it. Plus, there’s no independent backups to rely on should disaster strike.

7. Dismal scalability

As vaccination and testing mandates evolve, the way you approach tracking this data must be able to keep up.

Spreadsheets are ill-equipped for adapting to changing requirements, and there are limits to the amount of data you can collect. The flexibility to scale and add new features is why it pays to choose a future-proofed solution at the beginning.

Discover the Vaccine Tracker app.

Discover how easy we make it for employees to confirm COVID-19 vaccination status or test results. Get in touch with the BP Logix team today to schedule a customized demo.

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Catie Leary

Written by Catie Leary

Content Marketing Manager at BP Logix

BP Logix Process Director Reviews