Researchers: App shows healthcare interoperability is possible

An eight-year research effort has produced an mHealth app that its developers claim illustrates mobile software can work with electronic health record systems and data exchanges despite challenges related to data storage, various wireless protocols and a lack of standards for information sharing.

The myFitnessCompanion app allows its 6,000 users worldwide to collect data in one place for a holistic view of their health status, enabling easy analysis for creating a personalized care approach, according to a paper published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

The research team, from University of Technology Sydney in Australia, worked with third-party partners, including EHR vendors, wearables makers and app developers, to connect the Android app to back-end servers, systems and devices. The app connects with Microsoft HealthVault, Google Fit, Fitbit, Withings, Jawbone and iHealth servers, as well as various EHR systems.

"Mobile apps are well positioned to play an important role in the aggregation since they can tap into these official and informal health and data silos," the authors say. "[myFitnessCompanion] demonstrates that mobile apps can be used to enable interoperability."

The ultimate objective, according to the researchers, is to empower users in monitoring health and fitness and help them take control of their health.

New York-Presbyterian Hospital built its own system to connect its mobile technologies, FierceMobileHealthcare previously reported. Creating an in-house mHealth system required hurdling some strenuous obstacles, as well as some deep data diving into the hospital's electronic health record system.

While the myFitnessCompanion illustrates that interoperability and data sharing concerns can be overcome, the researchers note it's a rare development, as there is no "real integration of fitness-related data and health records stored in EHR systems," at this point.

"To provide better health outcomes and better patient engagement, a complete picture is needed which combines informal health and fitness data collected by the user, together with official health records collected by health professionals," they say. "By combining these two streams, the data can be analyzed using data analytics and health professional expertise to offer better personalized advice and care."

In late March, ambulatory health IT vendor eClinicalWorks announced that it can integrate fitness trackers and other wearables data into its subsidiary healow (health and Online Wellness) patient portal product. Earlier that month, Cerner and digital health platform Validic joined forces to offer the same ability to consumers via Cerner's wellness portal.

For more information:
- read the research paper