Take note: 2015 marks the year when medical research was potentially changed forever — thanks to a device that 72 million Americans carry in their pocket, purse, briefcase or backpack. We’re talking about Apple’s iPhone and the company’s recent introduction of ResearchKit, a brilliant, economically beneficial leap forward for medical science and your everyday health. Dr. Mike was at the March launch (same time that the Apple Watch was announced; we think it’s even more exciting than that!)
Look at your iPhone. If you see an app with a beating heart, that’s the amazing, innovative toolbox we’re talking about.
ResearchKit is a game changer: Usually it takes docs months, sometimes years, and huge bucks, to recruit 200 patients for a study. And pharmaceutical companies spend millions of dollars to find out if drug A fights infection B. With ResearchKit, recruitment can be done in a day (see the example below of recruitment for a Parkinson’s disease study), and a study might be done at a tenth of the former cost.
ResearchKit automates delivery of health data from volunteers to researchers by using the iPhone’s accelerometers, gyroscopes, GPS sensors and other capabilities. That’s what takes the tough work out of finding and retaining study participants. It also will help solve the tantalizing mystery of “lost” data — the daily details of study participants’ lives that often go unnoted, because traditional studies may check in on volunteers only sporadically. For example, it could let researchers discover (this is just hypothetical) that walking 9,720 steps a day helps control Parkinson’s symptoms, but getting 200 steps less doesn’t have the same benefits!
Finally, doctors and researchers from around the world can remotely track the health of thousands, if not millions, of people with chronic conditions (only with their permission, of course). Less expensive, faster and better data ... WOW!
If you want to help out by joining a study, download the app from the App Store. As Apple’s website says, “You choose what studies you want to join, you are in control of what information you provide to which apps, and you can see the data you’re sharing.” That means you learn about your health in real time!
What about privacy? Apple never touches the data; it goes directly to researchers. They create the apps, set up studies and recruit volunteers. And for iPhone users who agree to join a study — more than 19,000 people have already signed up — privacy is further protected by Apple via data encryption and cloud-based storage.
ResearchKit is just getting off the ground, but four research projects are up and running.