In recent times, Apple has been making a number of public moves focused on getting its customers to pull their health data onto their iPhone. Using Apple’s Health app, consumers can have their health data downloaded automatically from any institution with which it has partnered.
To date Apple’s list of partners stands at more than 200, including scattered individual medical practices and a wide range of health systems, including Allina Health, Baptist Health, Baylor, Scott & White Health, Catholic Health Initiatives, Christiana Care Health System, Cone Health, Emory Healthcare, Erlanger Health System, Geisinger, Henry Ford Health System, Inova Health System, Johns Hopkins, Legacy Health, Mary Washington Healthcare and MedStar Health.
Not only that, there’s every reason to believe Apple’s health data sharing universe will continue to expand. Though iPhone adoption still lags behind Android adoption, it still controlled 47% of the mobile OS segment as of March 2019, compared with 52.1% of phones using Google Android, according to Statista.
Now, a new non-profit industry group has come together to create an open-source version of the Apple toolset which can be used by Android device users. The initiative is being launched by Cornell Tech, UC San Francisco, Sage Bionetworks, Open mHealth and The Commons Project. According to the group’s announcement, CommonHealth will incorporate HL7 FHIR and other interoperability standards to offer Android users functionality similar to the Apple Health app.
CommonHealth is being piloted at UC San Francisco and a handful of other academic medical centers and health systems. Now that it’s past the pilot stage. the group is inviting other academic medical centers, health systems or developers to get involved.
To see to it that the data shared by CommonHealth is secure, the participants are rolling out a governance model which reviews and approves all apps, as well as all partners, connecting to CommonHealth. (While that’s good to see, they may need to do more marketing to capture the trust of users over the long term; Apple has that trust but has won it over time and extensive branding efforts.)
Regardless, as more and more consumers obtain the ability to download their health records, the smartphone could soon be the one-stop shop for longitudinal patient histories. After all, it’s become the indispensable tool of 21st-century life, and that makes it a very logical fulcrum for future evolution in patient use of health information.
Over time, various entrepreneurs (editor’s note: including one I worked for) have offered freestanding devices designed to make patient data portable, but none seem to have picked up a significant user base. Earlier on, giants like Google and Microsoft developed cloud-based applications which store patient data, including the flawed Personal Health Record, few of which have gotten much traction despite substantial marketing efforts.
The entry of an Android client to consumer health data sharing options goes a long way toward making patient control of their records a given. If new tools make health record sharing accessible to all, it gives providers an incentive to support such sharing, which in turn should lure more patients to use and download their records. We may be talking about a turning point here.