Apple announces open-source data-collection platform for mobile medical apps

For instance, Apple promises the new framework, dubbed ResearchKit, will simplify and enable clinical trials by allowing participants to sign off on the myriad forms and other paperwork over their iPhones.  ResearchKit also takes advantage of the phone’s sensors like an accelerometer, barometer, and gyroscope to enable regular data collection.  Quarterly visits to a research facility can be replaced by hourly updates with the patient’s latest information, Apple says.

ResearchKit will be made available to developers in April. It will contain five “acting task modules” from data that can be collected, according to the technical overview.  The tasks are: gait and tapping for apps to test motor skills, a short walk to test fitness, a test of spatial memory to measure cognition, and phonation to test the user’s voice.

ResearchKit is the cousin of Apple’s HealthKit, which has already produced 900 health apps.  The new kit will be more focused on helping medical researchers use and collect data, as the name implies.

Five ResearchKit apps are already available for download.  They are:

·       The Asthma Help app, which helps patients avoid areas with poor air quality.

·       The mPower app, which measures dexterity, balance, memory and gait in Parkinson’s patients.

·       The GlucoSuccess app, which helps diabetic patients figure out how diet, exercise and medications relate to their blood glucose levels.

·       The Share the Journey app, which lets breast cancer patients share information about energy levels, cognitive abilities and mood following chemotherapy.

·       The MyHeart Counts app, which uses surveys and tasks to help researchers gather data from participants that will shed light on the risk factors of cardiovascular disease.

The common there here is, you guessed it, Big Data.  On its website, Apple goes to lengths to reassure potential users of the apps that their data will be kept safe and secure.

Also during the event, Apple announced that its long-awaited Apple Watch will debut commercially on April 24.  Cook called it “a comprehensive health and fitness companion,” according to USA Today.  The watch will contain basic fitness-monitoring instruments like a pulse-rate monitor. New details about it were announced during the event–notably the monitor’s name (Heart Rate Glance) and look. Although the feature’s functionality is relatively simple, its new form could attract new users.

More advanced features did not make the first edition due to engineering (and perhaps regulatory) challenges.

REFERENCE:  Fierce Medical Devices; 10 MAR 2015; Varun Saxena

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