Google introduces Open Health Stack for developers

Credit: Brian Heater

Google announced a new open-source program called the Open Health Stack that will allow developers to create health-related apps. These tools, which were unveiled at the company’s special event “The Check Up” this week, include a software developer kit (SDK) for Android and design guidelines for health apps.

The search giant said the stack is focused on the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Standards (FHIR) standards. This makes it easier for developers to gather the information and medical staff to access it. FHIR has been adopted by many major electronic health record (EHR) providers.

The Open Health Stack gives developers access to the Android FHIR SDK to build safe apps that work offline; a design guide to help developers simplify data collection; and FHIR Analytics to derive insights into the complex structure of the framework, and FHIR Info Gateway to assign role-based access to data to different stakeholders. The last two components are in Early Access, and Google is developing more features in both.

“This suite of components makes it easier for developers to quickly build apps that enable healthcare workers to access the information and insights they need to make informed decisions,” said Fred Hersch, senior product manager at Google, in a blog post.

To build this stack, Google worked with the World Health Organization to align the tools with the agency’s recommendations for developing apps on Android. The company also claimed that the developer tools adhere to the Digital Public Goods Alliance’s privacy best practices.

Google said several partners around the world such as Ona, IPRDSolutions, Arguso and Intelliso have already developed some solutions that are deployed in sub-Saharan Africa, India and Southeast Asia.

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For comparison, Apple supports FHIR endpoints with its HealthKit API, but it’s not an open source project.

Last year, Google announced a partnership with Samsung to introduce the Health Connect initiative, which allows users to easily share their health and fitness data across apps. While the new Open Health Stack also fits into the Android ecosystem, it’s more about helping healthcare workers collect and access health data in remote areas.

Aside from these new developer tools, today Google also announced a new search feature for US-based users to help them find health centers that offer free or low-cost treatments.