mHealth Group to Develop an Android Version of Apple Health App

A wide-ranging mHealth partnership has announced plans to create an Android version of the Apple Health Records app, potentially giving millions of Americans a new connected health platform to access their medical data.

Cornell Tech, UC San Francisco (UCSF), Sage Bionetworks, Open mHealth and The Commons Project recently announced the CommonHealth project, to be designed as an open-source, non-profit public service benefitting those who don’t use Apple devices.

“Apple has shown real leadership and moved the industry forward by enabling patient access to their health information,” JP Pollak, health product lead at The Commons Project, Senior Researcher in Residence at Cornell Tech and Assistant Professor at Weill Cornell Medicine, said in a press release posted on the project’s new website. “Now CommonHealth is significantly expanding the number of people who can benefit from easy electronic access to their health records.”

With the rise of consumer-facing healthcare and efforts by the healthcare industry to make the patient a more active part of the care management process, mobile devices are fast becoming the tool of choice for gathering, assembling and viewing health data. Today’s consumer wants to be able to access his or her health records on a smartphone or tablet – as well as connect with care providers, schedule tests and appointments and even compare prices.

The project mirrors the 2016 rollout of ResearchStack, the Android-based equivalent of Apple’s ResearchKit framework for clinical trials. That effort was also led by Cornell Tech and Open mHealth, and Sage Bionetworks developed the first app – MoleMapper – for that platform.

“(A)n overriding goal of ResearchStack is to help developers and researchers with existing apps on iOS more easily adapt those apps for Android,” Open mHealth officials said in a blog post in 2015. “Though the correspondence of features between the two SDKs isn’t one-to-one, the two SDKs will offer enough shared functionality and a common framework and naming scheme to greatly speed up adaptation of ResearchKit apps to Android (and ResearchStack apps to iOS) and the procedural aspects of running a study on a new platform (such as IRB approval and secure connectivity with a data collection backend).”

With CommonHealth, the goal is to create the same playing field as that created by the Apple Health Records app, which debuted in 2018 and has been adopted by hundreds of health systems and the US Department of Veterans Affairs.

Organizers say they’ll leverage data interoperability standards including HL7 FHIR, and they’ll be “implementing a robust governance model that will review and approve all apps connecting to CommonHealth.”

“The upcoming launch of CommonHealth will unlock a wealth of opportunities for the developer and research communities, helping them to conduct more inclusive studies and deliver personal health management tools,” Deborah Estrin, Associate Dean for Impact at Cornell Tech, co-founder of Open mHealth and the project manager for ResearchStack, said in the press release.

“UCSF is committed to using technology to improve care for all of our patients,” added Russ Cucina, Chief Health Information Officer for UCSF Health. “The CommonHealth project will ensure that more of our patients have access to their health information, and that they can share it responsibly with the growing health technology sector.”

Originally published in mHealth Intelligence by Eric Wicklund on September 10, 2019