On July 29, 2015, Steve Roatch, founder and CEO of Twentyseven Global, presented with Jeff Danley, founder of TVBlox, on new avenues for the collection and use of consumer-generated health data. Digital health is a passion of Roatch’s and Twentyseven Global has many custom software development and mobile app development projects centered on digital health.
The main focus of the discussion was the ability of consumers to directly contribute to research initiatives led by health organizations through Apple’s ResearchKit and Google’s StudyKit. Roatch presented on the side of ResearchKit and what it means for the advancement of digital health technology.
ResearchKit launched March 19, 2015, with the hopes to leverage the strides already made with HealthKit and combat common conditions such as asthma, Parkinson’s, diabetes, cardiovascular disorders and breast cancer. ResearchKit planned to tackle these conditions by allowing more people to participate in clinical research programs to generate a higher volume of quantitative data which was previously unachievable through traditional clinical trials.
Apple launched ResearchKit with an open source framework that includes three modules. The activity module enables researchers to track users’ motor activities, fitness, cognition and voice. The survey module provides instruction templates, questions, forms and 12 answer formats. After answering some questions and setting up a profile, users are asked for their consent to participate using the Consent module. Users sign an agreement and ResearchKit gathers the data.
The large volume of data that will be available with ResearchKit and future digital health initiatives splits opinions on usefulness. Some are excited about the amount of data that was not available before and can foresee many exciting uses for the information. Others are worried that quantity will usurp quality and that the data will be too inaccurate to see much innovation in the health industry.
In most research studies, there are the classic control groups to measure progress against. The worry is that ResearchKit will collect a great mass of data and have trouble showcasing any problems and solutions without a base comparison. Data becomes a bit of a monster due to tech programs and ideologies, such as big data, Internet of Things (IOT), wearable medical sensor devices, health apps and the idea of the connected self.
These are all challenges that software and mobile app developers face, including Twentyseven Global. The emergence of digital health and the opportunities it provides are fairly new concepts. In this new world of digital health, patients are now consumers. Researchers have an unprecedented array of new tools available to them. Service providers must adapt to the access each of these groups have. It is imperative that those who seek an opportunity with digital health understand the nuances and capitalize through innovation. Those who do not will be left behind in the wave of knowledge and advancement digital health data can potentially provide.
With more collaboration and open source projects, like ResearchKit, developers will be able to define parameters for data collection and usage where the population can see a direct benefit from digital health initiatives.