Apple announced the launch of ResearchKit, an open source software framework for researchers to easily create apps to gather health data for greater understanding of health conditions, diseases, and long-term treatment effects. These apps allow study participants to complete tasks or submit surveys directly from the iPhone, which could save both time and money for doctors and researchers. Sensors such as an accelerometer, barometer, and gyroscope in the iPhone can be used with the ResearchKit to gather accurate and precise data. 

The ResearchKit is already being used at several medical institutions; at UCLA, breast cancer patients are using a ResearchKit app to report five common consequences of breast cancer treatment (fatigue, cognitive difficulties, sleep disturbances, mood changes, and a worse exercise performance). Mount Sinai and Weill Cornell Medical College have developed an app to gain greater insight into asthma triggers by tracking symptom patterns in individuals for new personalized treatment options. Stanford University School of Medicine’s MyHeart Counts app can identify a patient’s activity, fitness levels, and “heart age” using the iPhone’s motion sensors to track physical activity and to collect data during a six-minute walk test. At the University of Rochester, an app for Parkinson’s disease is being used to measure gait and balance to detect inconsistencies and vocal fluctuation measurements via the iPhone’s microphone that may indicate this disease. In addition, patients with diabetes will soon be able to log their blood sugar levels. 

Apple has assured patients that their health information will only be shared with the studies they join and the company will not see this data. While the promise of a tool to potentially transform medicine is exciting, some are skeptical that the data may not be accurate and that data from health measurements could be limited by the capabilities of the iPhone itself.

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