UCSF, Cornell working on Android health record app to rival Apple

Smartphone apps
Organizations are using interoperability standards, like FHIR, to enable patients to collect their electronic health record data and share it with health apps on their Android phones. (Getty/marchmeena29)

UC San Francisco and Cornell Tech are leading a project to create an open-source platform to enable Android phone users to access and share their health records on par with Apple's mobile health records feature.

The project, called CommonHealth, will use data interoperability standards, including HL7 Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) to make it easy and secure for people to collect their electronic health record data and share it with health apps, according to a press release.

Other organizations involved in the project include biomedical research and technology development organization Sage Bionetworks, Open mHealth, an organization focused on making patient-generated health data more accessible with an open data format, and The Commons Project, a non-profit developed to build and operate digital services for public good.

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"Apple has shown real leadership and moved the industry forward by enabling patient access to their health information. Now CommonHealth is significantly expanding the number of people who can benefit from easy electronic access to their health records," JP Pollak, the CommonHealth product lead, senior researcher in residence at Cornell Tech and assistant professor at Weill Cornell Medicine, said in a statement.

The personal health data aggregated through CommonHealth may also be used to improve digital therapeutics and diagnostics, biomedical research, and patient care, as described by UCSF Professor of Medicine Ida Sim in the New England Journal of Medicine.

To ensure patient privacy, the CommonHealth partners plan to implement a robust governance model that will review and approve all apps and partners connecting to CommonHealth, the organizations said.

Apple launched its health records app in January 2018 and it has since been rolled out to hundreds of partner health systems and medical practices as well as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. In June, Apple announced it was expanding access to the health records feature by allowing U.S. health care organizations with compatible EHRs to self-register for the personal health record system.

To date, these health record apps have seen modest uptake, but the number of patients accessing and sharing their health records via their smartphones is growing, according to a recent study from UCSF and the University of California San Diego.

"UCSF is committed to using technology to improve care for all of our patients," Russ Cucina, Chief Health Information Officer for UCSF Health, said. "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."

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Deborah Estrin, associate dean for Impact at Cornell Tech and co-founder of Open mHealth, said the upcoming launch of CommonHealth will open up opportunities for developers and researchers, helping them to conduct more inclusive studies and deliver personal health management tools.

CommonHealth is being piloted at UCSF and select academic medical centers and health systems.