Apple unveils new health app platform, ResearchKit

Apple unveils new health app platform, ResearchKit
Apple unveils new health app platform, ResearchKit

Apple unveils new health app platform, ResearchKit

Modern technology is constantly changing the economic and social landscape with apps for nearly every aspect of day to day living emerging on a daily basis. The increase in use of smartphones has driven the success of applications and technology to a new level of personal accessibility and customisation. This growth in the smartphone area has now opened options into the health sector with applications being developed to benefit sufferers of certain conditions. Apple, the industry leader when it comes to application based technology has just announced their aim of changing the health market, ResearchKit.

The ResearchKit allows medical researchers to develop iPhone applications that will collect data from users based on their medical conditions. It will also provide medical information to the user meaning warnings or changes to the individual’s health will be alerted. In the announcement, five launch apps which have been developed with the top universities and research institutions aiming to collect data on asthma, Parkinson’s, breast cancer, diabetes and heart conditions.

The positives of this type of application, especially in the health market are vast. Currently the way data is collected by research institutions is problematic as it often involves some form of recruitment which in a traditional sense involves flyers, radio adverts or leaflets. It is noted in a Business Insider article that one example study received only 305 responses from a campaign that involved the sending of 60,000 letters.  Now the ResearchKit and its subsequent apps will allow mass collection on a previously unseen scale. Currently the use and sale of iPhones is at an all-time high with global sales reaching 700 million. This means only a fraction of people would have to participate to collect enough data.

One of the benefits of the ResearchKit is that it will be open source meaning that the development of Apps relating to health issues will not only be specific to certain industry/research leaders. This allows a huge market for other conditions to be developed which in turn offers not only data but also cures.

On the face of things this does appear to be about data collection, a dirty term in the new era of technology; however, the ResearchKit and the eventual data it collects does offer potential benefits to the individual. Dr Yvonne Chan, researcher and assistant professor of emergency medicine, genetics and genomic sciences at Mount Sinai Hospital commented on their asthma app which they have partnered with Apple to create.

“The key to managing chronic disease is avoiding the triggers the make them worse. If people using the asthma app over time notice the things that set off that chest-tightening inability to breathe, they could develop better control over those moments and improve their quality of life. At the same time, noting those moments on an app will allow Mt.Sinai to cross-reference them with things like air quality data, deepening our understanding of the disease.” [1]

[1] “Apple is ushering in a ‘new era’ of medical research”, Kevin Loria, Uk Business Insider,
[2] “Apple announces medical app research platform, ResearchKit”, Brian Dolan, Mobi Health News,
[3] “Apple introduces ResearchKit and apps to monitor diabetes, breast cancer, asthma, heart disease and Parkinson’s”, Kriti Saraswat, The Health Site,