For community health workers in low-and-middle-income countries (LMICs), mobile devices have become critical tools for doing community outreach and providing vital health services such as conducting health screenings, distributing medications, and accessing immunization records. Unfortunately, the lack of data interoperability means that patient records are fragmented between different outreach programs or applications, and caregivers have to make decisions for patients using incomplete information.
Partnering with WHO to help developers build secure mobile solutions
Last year, we introduced a collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) to build an open source software developer kit (SDK) for creating secure interoperable mobile healthcare applications. This SDK is designed to help developers build mobile solutions using the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) global standard for healthcare data, which is being widely adopted to address fragmentation and foster more patient-centered care. The Android FHIR SDK will allow developers to more easily create applications that help community health workers in LMICs provide better outreach and care.
How does this work? Let’s take a closer look.
FHIR’s power lies in its ability to enable the easy and secure exchange of information between mobile applications, electronic health records and other digital clinical tools.
One challenge for community health workers in LMICs is that they often have to work in areas with unreliable connectivity. That’s why we’ve designed our SDK to allow Android apps to run offline and to store and process data in FHIR locally — allowing community health workers to continue accessing the vital information they need to provide care.
The FHIR SDK also makes it easier for app developers to build mobile tools for healthcare workers in a standardized way. Take the Data Capture Library as an example. Previously, building Android UI for data collection questionnaires would be a time-consuming and error-prone process. Our Data Capture Library within the SDK implements the FHIR Structured Data Capture guidelines to generate the UI components at runtime and extract the responses as FHIR data — reducing development time and effort required. This allows developers to focus their efforts on designing applications to meet the needs of their local communities without having to worry as much about managing clinical content and data standards requirements. Additionally, the Android FHIR SDK enables developers with offline search capabilities and cloud sync APIs. Also, because in many regions healthcare systems rely on on-premise servers or regionally-approved cloud servers, we made the SDK cloud-agnostic and adaptable to any FHIR server of the developer’s choice.
How developers are using the SDK to support frontline health workers
We are excited to have begun collaborating with innovative tech providers to apply the Android FHIR SDK towards empowering community health workers and enabling equitable access to high quality care.
Ona, a global health technology company working in Liberia, is currently using the SDK to power Quest, an open source app that lets developers use FHIR to define forms and capture data to take advantage of the growing Android FHIR SDK and WHO SMART guidelines ecosystem. Ona is using Quest to empower those working on the frontlines of health and humanitarian relief efforts.
Other health tech partners collaborating with us on our SDK include IPRD Solutions, which we’re partnering with to help over 2,000 community health workers allocate malaria prevention nets to more than 700,000 people in Nigeria, Lattice Innovations, a health tech solutions company based in India, and Argusoft, an Indian company developing a health workforce platform for coordinating emergency care.
Our aim is to support an ecosystem of Android developers as they build the next generation of mobile health tools for LMICs. For more information or to get up and running, see the project’s Github, and learn more about our work with the WHO at our event The Check Up with Google Health.
This blog was co-authored by Katherine Chou, senior director, product management, Heath AI and Sudhi Herle, head of Android Platform Security