ResearchKit and What It Means for Digital Health Data and Preventative Care

The announcement of ResearchKit at the Apple Event on March 9 threw the tech world into a frenzy. Some adored it, calling it the latest innovation in digital health akin to the iPod’s innovation in the music industry. Others scoffed, calling it another over-hyped announcement from Apple. The team at Twentyseven Global, a custom software development and mobile app development firm in Kansas City and Denver, are interested to learn more about what ResearchKit means for the future of digital health data.


Photo Credit: Håkan Dahlström / Foter / CC BY

Steve Roatch, CEO of Twentyseven Global, said, “ResearchKit is Apple’s latest innovation capitalizing an important trend in digital health. Wearables, combined with consumers’ desires to own and manage their own health data, are opening the floodgates on the amount of health data available. Privacy issues will remain a concern and available data is not necessarily the same thing as clinical data. Solving these problems is what innovators do and ResearchKit is one more tool in the toolbox.”

ResearchKit is a digital platform for biomedical research that will be available on the latest iPhone software to be released in April. iPhone users will be able to download apps from hospitals who are looking to recruit patients for testing. After downloading these outside apps through ResearchKit, the user will be able to enroll in drug and therapy trials for various conditions.

Standard features on the iPhone, such as voice recording and motion sensing, will be used through ResearchKit to detect various diseases and illnesses. For example, ResearchKit will be able to test whether someone’s voice patterns are similar to those with Parkinson’s disease for early detection and treatment.

The reason behind this new feature is to allow more people to enroll in health research that did not before because it was difficult or time consuming to go to a clinic. With mobile technology, Apple is aiming to improve health research easily by allowing anyone to participate in trials from their couch. The benefit to the user is the possibility of finding out they may have an illness. They will then be able to receive early preventative treatment that could potentially save lives.

There are of course issues. Doctors and hospitals have to opt in to have their research goals published on the ResearchKit application. There has to be numerous privacy agreements between the iPhone user and the hospitals seeking this valuable health data. The data retrieved has to be used according to strict guidelines that Apple will have to set. But the potential for this data to save lives and change medical discoveries is an exciting thought. For now, it is a wait-and-see game to observe how Apple will provide ResearchKit in a way that benefits everyone.

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