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Google, WHO developing open-source software kit for digital health apps

by John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | December 17, 2021
Artificial Intelligence Business Affairs Health IT
Google and WHO are developing an open-source software kit to design apps for frontline workers in developing countries
Google and the World Health Organization have a new project in the works for an open-source software developer kit to help developers create mobile apps for frontline healthcare workers in low- and middle-income countries.

The digital health apps will be designed to aid doctors in challenging situations such as when internet connectivity is unstable. They will offer decision support tools and bring together data from multiple different applications. They also will allow for providers to share health data more easily, reported Modern Healthcare.

The kit will provide data access, search tools and other components to help build apps more easily. The apps will be made on the Android mobile operating system and will be able to run offline by storing and processing data locally, which is helpful when connectivity is unreliable, said Google Health in a blog post.

"The [software developer kit] reduces the time and effort it takes to build [Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources]-based, interoperable digital health applications on Android, maximizing the efforts of local developers and unlocking their potential to meet their community's needs," said the blog post.

FHIR is the data-sharing standard required in the companion rules published last year by the Health and Human Services Department's Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. With it, software developers will be able to more easily share information across any applications using FHIR. Patient data on the apps will be encrypted and not shared with Google.

The WHO is currently using the kit to develop EmCare, a clinical decision support app that provides evidence-based recommendations in emergency settings. The recommendations are based on existing guidelines from the WHO.

The project comes amidst Google’s recent decision back in August to shut down its health division following the departure of its chief and vice president, Dr. David Feinberg. The news was leaked to employees in a memo that said that Google Health would no longer function as a single entity and that various projects and teams would be transferred to other parts of the company. One division transferred was Google Health’s clinical group, which develops a broad range of solutions, from skin and hair care to algorithms for hospitals workflow and mammography screenings.

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