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Here’s how Apple aims to help medical research

In this final post, we focus on what could be one of the biggest pieces of news from Apple’s event yesterday. ResearchKit is a new way for research organisations and universities to improve the way medical research is conducted. As an open source platform, this isn’t confined to just Apple users, making it all the more interesting.

Conducting medical research is a time intensive, complicated and often inconsistent practice. Participants may only be reviewed once every quarter, results may be collected on a small scale (i.e. between one-to-five) and getting participants can be costly and lead to skewed results.

That is what we learnt from Apple yesterday and this is why Apple has partnered with a number of leading research organisations and universities to develop ResearchKit.

In a new move for Apple, ResearchKit is an Open Source platform that will make it possible for smartphone users, on any platform, to participate in medical research trials and studies via their mobile phones.
Apple won’t see the data, it’s just enabling research organisations to create apps that could vastly improve medical studies and the reliability of data. This, Apple said, was born out of it seeing how people around the world were using the iPhone for health and fitness.Its first step was the launch of HealthKit with iOS 8, with ResearchKit being introduced as a way to provide valuable insight. Participants can take part in studies by downloading apps, created by research organisations, with data being fed from the iPhone, Apple Watch, third party health trackers, and soon other smartphones.Initial examples of this include:

  • Asthma Health – an app from Mount Sinai, Weill Cornell Medical College and LifeMap. The App is designed to find triggers for the disease, where participants can self-manage their asthma by avoiding areas with poor air quality. In New York, Mount Sinai will be distributing Bluetooth inhalers and utilising pollution sensors across the city to help better understand triggers. This is big data in action.
  • mPower – is an app from the University of Rochester and Sage Bionetworks that is able to measure data such as dexterity, balance, memory and gait. This information can help researchers to better understand the symptoms connected with Parkinson’s and help improve health.

Other apps focus on Diabetes, Breast Cancer and Cardiovascular Disease. All utilise various sensors found on the iPhone, but also Apple Watch, to help provide reliable data over a longer period of time.

Crucially, because people will be able to participate without disrupting their lives, or needing to be located near a medical centre, it will help to improve our understanding of various diseases and illnesses. Check out the film below to find out more:

For us, this was almost the biggest news from the event. It’s significant for showing how mobile technology can be used for the betterment of our health. Intelligent businesses have been using mobile to improve their own operations and get a better understanding of the time it takes for employees to complete tasks.

This is a prime example of technology being an enabler, a problem solver, a way to improve the way we live, improve our health and provide us with access to a wider community.

Of course, Apple isn’t alone here. Other companies have long been focused on trying to use technology for healthcare. By opening it up to other platforms, Apple is looking outside of its own walls for something that it believes is important.

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