Apple launches open source software framework ResearchKit

Apple announced Monday the launch of its ResearchKit, which the company said is "an open source software framework designed for medical and health research, helping doctors and scientists gather data more frequently and more accurately from participants using iPhone apps." Apple noted that research institutions have already developed apps with ResearchKit for studies on asthma, breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease. Jeff Williams, Apple’s senior vice president of Operations, remarked that "ResearchKit gives the scientific community access to a diverse, global population and more ways to collect data than ever before."

Apple noted that users decide if they want to participate in a study and how their data are shared. Specifically, the Asthma Health app, which was developed by the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and LifeMap Solutions, facilitates self-monitoring in patients with asthma, promote compliance while a study using the app is tracking symptom patterns and potential triggers for exacerbations. Eric Schadt, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, remarked that "by using Apple’s new ResearchKit framework, we’re able to extend participation beyond our local community and capture significantly more data to help us understand how asthma works." He added that "using iPhone’s advanced sensors, we’re able to better model an asthma patient’s condition to enable us to deliver a more personalised, more precise treatment."

The Share the Journey app, developed by the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Penn Medicine, Sage Bionetworks and UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, is being used in a study aiming to understand why some survivors of breast cancer recover faster than others and why symptoms vary. The MyHeart Counts app, developed by Stanford Medicine, measures activity and uses risk factor information to help researchers more accurately evaluate how a participant’s activity and lifestyle relate to cardiovascular health. Meanwhile, Massachusetts General Hospital's GlucoSuccess app has been developed to understand how diet, physical activity and medications affect blood glucose levels. Additionally, Apple said Sage Bionetworks and the University of Rochester developed the Parkinson mPower app to help patients with Parkinson’s disease track their symptoms by recording activities, such as speaking and walking, using sensors in iPhone.

Apple noted the apps are currently available while the entire platform will be available next month.

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