Apple goes on a health buzz with new medical and research tools

21 Mar 2016

Apple is taking the pulse of the healthcare industry in a clever way

Apple is moving further into the medical world and today revealed a new CareKit health framework for patients, as well as an update to its ResearchKit framework that brings genetic and medical research data to the iPhone.

At an event where Apple released a new iPhone SE that packs as much a technological punch as the bigger iPhone 6s and 6s Plus devices, as well as a new 9.7in iPad Pro with all the bells and whistles, the tech giant made it clear it has a steady eye on the medical world.

It announced advancements to its open-source ResearchKit framework that brings genetic data and medical tests usually kept in the exam room to the iPhone.

ResearchKit turns iPhone into a powerful tool for medical research by helping doctors, scientists and other researchers gather data more frequently and more accurately from participants anywhere in the world using iPhone apps.

“The response to ResearchKit has been fantastic. Virtually overnight, many ResearchKit studies became the largest in history, and researchers are gaining insights and making discoveries that weren’t possible before,” said Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer.

“Medical researchers around the world continue to use iPhone to transform what we know about complex diseases, and with continued support from the open source community, the opportunities for iPhone in medical research are endless.”

Participants enrolled in these app-based studies can review an interactive informed consent process, easily complete active tasks or submit survey responses, and choose how their health data is shared with researchers, making contributions to medical research easier than ever.

ResearchKit: Apple CareKit

Apple’s new CareKit

“There’s so much we still need to learn about post-partum depression, and it may be DNA that provides the key to better understanding as to why some women experience symptoms and others do not,” said Dr Samantha Meltzer-Brody, director of the Perinatal Psychiatry Programme at the UNC Center for Women’s Mood Disorders in the US. “With ResearchKit, and now the ability to incorporate genetic data, we’re able to engage women with post-partum depression from a wide geographic and demographic range and can analyse the genomic signature of post-partum depression to help us find more effective treatments.”

Sharing is caring

As well as new ResearchKit capabilities, Apple also revealed a new CareKit framework that makes it easier for individuals themselves to better understand their own health by keeping track of care plans and monitoring symptoms and medication.

The new framework also makes it easier to share information with doctors, nurses or family members.

Included in the framework is Care Card, which helps people better track their health plans.

It also includes a symptom and measurement tracker that uses the iPhone’s accelerometer and gyroscope to good effect, as well as an insight dashboard to map symptoms against actions in the Care Card to measure if treatments are working.

“We believe that giving individuals the tools to understand what is happening with their health is incredibly powerful, and apps designed using CareKit make this a reality by empowering people to take a more active role in their care,” said Williams.

Main image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years