Apple’s ResearchKit Will Elevate Scientific Study Participation

Several apps are already in use collecting data on participants for studies on breast cancer, asthma, and Parkinson's disease.

During its Apple Watch event earlier this week in San Francisco, Apple announced the launch of ResearchKit, a new open source software framework for medical professionals that will help researchers gather health data from participants using apps that can measure weight, blood pressure, glucose levels, gait, and more.

Users can share their health data and participate in a study, all through their iPhone. Already, several health institutions have created apps to work with ResearchKit, including UCLA, Penn Medicine, the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Stanford Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, and the University of Rochester.

When given permission by the user, apps can access health data from the Health app, which stores health data from third-party devices and apps. ResearchKit can also request access to the phone’s accelerometer, microphone, gyroscope, and GPS in order to collect data on a user’s gait, motor impairment, fitness, speech, and memory.  

The University of Rochester teamed up with Sage Bionetworks to develop the Parkinson mPower app, which helps Parkinson’s patients track their symptoms using activity sensors in the iPhone. Activities in the app include a memory game, finger tapping, speaking, and walking. The activity and survey data collected is being combined in to what is the world’s largest study on Parkinson’s disease.

The software also allows researchers to gather data from a much more broad pool of participants by enabling them to complete tasks and submit surveys through their iPhone, without having to drive to the nearest institution to be evaluated.

ResearchKit will be released as an open source framework in April, but users can already download ResearchKit apps like mPower on the App Store.

For more information on ResearchKit, go here