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What does the Launch of Apple ResearchKit mean for Medical Research?

The pace at which the Healthcare sector is taking advantage of developments in smartphone technology has accelerated with Apple’s unveiling of ResearchKit on 9th March 2015 at their Spring Forward event. Apple ResearchKit represents a big leap forward – in particular for medical research on chronic illnesses and conditions such as Diabetes, Asthma, Heart Disease, and Cancer.

What does the Launch of Apple ResearchKit mean for Medical Research?



What is Apple ResearchKit?

ResearchKit has been designed by Apple as open source software. Doctors or researchers can now create apps which allow them to rapidly collect data on people with various diseases and illnesses. Health monitoring apps can be built using ResearchKit to collect data from iPhone and soon Apple Watch users.

Each app has a variety of activities.These typically consist of baseline background questions and daily surveys on how you’re feeling that day in relation to your illness. Weight, activity and food consumption can all be monitored using the new HealthApp.

A solution for Rapid Medical Research?

Traditional paper-based data gathering methods are slow and costly with low completion rates. By comparison, Apple ResearchKit breaks down the geographical barrier and time restrictions. For example, a person in an isolated location can complete tests remotely and report on effects of current medication. Stanford’s ResearchKit-based “MyHeart” app measuring cardiovascular help saw an unprecedented response rate in the first 24 hours.

Benefits of Apple ResearchKit

Benefits of Apple ResearchKit

Daily app updates can be used to remind research participants to continue the survey. It will presumably reduce costs by thousands for research facilities in gathering information.

The User Experience

The participant will start at the welcome screen where they’re given a brief walk-through and given options for which data they would like to share with qualified researchers.

ResearchKit can give daily feedback and gives the user visual results helping them to understand their treatment and monitor their well being.


There are a wide variety of options which can be implemented into the ResearchKit. These include daily medication, food intake, and dexterity tests. All this data is aggregated into the app giving the user visually appealing and easy to understand data. The apps are designed to serve both the researcher and the participant. Which will encourage them to keep coming back as it allows them track their individual results.

Apple ResearchKit is not just a survey tool. It empowers apps to perform tests that otherwise could never have been done without direct supervision. Gait tests and dexterity tests have all been built in which brings the lab right to the iPhone.

The Benefits of Rapid Medical Research

Researchers can gather data from tens of thousands participants simultaneously. This means a much shorter research cycle. Highly granular data is made available for immediate analysis. The effects of medication, environmental and lifestyle factors on symptoms and patient welfare are all measurable. Medical research and patient care will undoubtedly improve as a result. Hopefully this can also lead to more rapid development of treatments and cures.

Sample Projects

At the announcement for ResearchKit Apple had 5 apps ready to launch to the public:

  • Share the Journey is a joint collaboration between the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, UCLA and Penn Medicine. Helping breast cancer survivors tracks their lifestyle factors.
  • Parkinsons mPower created by Sage Bionetworks and the University of Rochester. A mass study on the effect of Parkinson’s disease through surveys and built in tasks.
  • GlucoSuccess has been tailored towards diabetics. Massachusetts General Hospital hope to track lifestyle habits of current diabetics to get insights into how certain factors affect blood glucose levels. This in turn can help participants lead a better life.
  • Asthma Health app created by Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine and LifeMap Solutions. Monitors symptoms and patterns identifying reasons for potential spikes in symptoms.
  • MyHeart Counts by Stanford Medicine. This is the largest study of all the apps so far with any participants being encouraged to enter. So that they can help the general public live a healthier life and understand the changes in lifestyle factors which bring about poor heart health.

Moving forward

The ResearchKit development framework will soon be available (in April) outside of the US. Here at Púca we look forward to taking advantage of the new features offered by ResearchKit in a number of forthcoming projects.


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