A cohort of researchers and developers announced Friday that the Android app CommonHealth — which lets users see and share health data such as lab test results, immunizations, and medications from their records — is now connected to 230 U.S. health systems.
Similar to Apple Health Records for iPhone users, the free app — produced by the nonprofit organization the Commons Project — lets non-iPhone users manage their health data in a single location, a feat previously but unsuccessfully attempted by tech giants Google and Microsoft. Traditionally, such health care data is stored in siloed environments, creating obstacles for patients and clinicians who want to ensure comprehensive health care.
The news follows the rollout of new rules released earlier this year by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that require health systems to share medical information with third-party apps of their choosing by January 2021, although the agency has said it will not penalize providers who don’t comply until July. At the same time, the Covid-19 pandemic is renewing existing pressures on health systems to allow for the sharing of data such as lab results.
The app allows, for example, a patient at UCSF Health to share the results of a recent Covid-19 test performed at LabCorp with a provider. UCSF piloted the tool, and LabCorp announced in October that it would allow people to access its test results through the app, making it the first major commercial lab company to collaborate with CommonHealth.
Somewhat surprisingly, Google, the entity one might consider most likely to produce a health records tool for Android users, is not creating or operating the new app. The Common Project’s large group of trustees, however, does include a Google vice president of engineering, as well as executives from other large and small tech companies including One Medical and Oscar and federal officials including representatives from the Department of Health and Human Services.
Commons Project representatives said they hoped the organization’s status as a neutral, not-for-profit entity — as opposed to a tech giant like Google — would help foster trust of the tool among patients and health systems.
“Trust is the linchpin for all of digital health,” said Ida Sim, professor of medicine and co-director of informatics and research innovation at UCSF’s Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute and a trustee of the Commons Project.
CommonHealth’s developers worked on the tool in collaboration with UCSF; Sage Bionetworks, a nonprofit medical research organization; and Cornell Tech, the university’s technology- and business- focused campus in New York City.
The new app is envisioned as working in concert with another Commons Project tool called CommonPass, which is being tested during the pandemic as a digital verification of a person’s health status while traveling. CommonHealth would serve as a digital health portfolio that works in a manner similar to Apple Health Records.
“We now have an iOS digital wallet in the form of Apple Health Records and an Android digital wallet in the form of CommonHealth,” said Brad Perkins, Commons Project co-founder and chief medical officer.
Perkins expects to see heightened and lasting interest in the health records app and its companion CommonPass, especially as people return to international travel and need to show proof of Covid-19 vaccination.
“There is going to be a really dramatic everyday use-case for people needing to have a convenient method to share [health] data,” Perkins said.