It might be time to rethink the phrase “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” In early March of 2015 during Apple’s Keynote event, Apple announced ResearchKit, an open source big data initiative that allows scientists and doctors to collect large amounts of data from participants with iPhones. With ResearchKit, Apple hopes to deliver a new groundwork for studies on breast cancer, seizure detection, cardiovascular disease, Parkinson’s disease, asthma, autism and many more.
ResearchKit has been out for roughly a year now and Apple has already made tremendous leaps towards new discoveries. Jeff Williams, Apple’s Chief Operating Officer, stated in Apple’s 2016 event, that the Parkinson’s study became the largest in history in less than 24 hours, with over 25,000 people involved. Here are a few other studies that stuck out to me due to their incredible success in the past year.
- The Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City created an asthma app received data from patients in all 50 states.
- The Massachusetts General Hospital received so much data that they could determine that sub-types of Type 2 Diabetes existed.
- Duke University created an at-home application to help in diagnosing autism by using the front facing camera on the iPhone. Videos will play on the phone screen and algorithms within the application will analyze the emotional responses of the children watching.
- John Hopkins University created EpiWatch. EpiWatch is an application for the Apple Watch that gathers data during seizures. That data is gathered and used to develop a seizure detection application that will warn you before you have a seizure, allowing the victim to get to a safe area.
This year in Apple’s Keynote event, Apple revealed another application that will go hand in hand with ResearchKit. It’s called CareKit. This application will allow the iPhone user to keep their doctor in close, constant contact with the patient’s vitals, all in real time. Allowing the patients’ doctor this information permits him to push new recommendations and treatments without ever having to visit a hospital. CareKit is an open source application, similar to ResearchKit. This means that CareKit provides a platform for medical companies to create applications to improve healthcare services. During Apple’s 2016 Keynote event, Williams was found stating, “We wanted to make it easier for people to participate in research studies. And we wanted to make it easier to gather accurate and frequent data from the devices we’re already carrying in our hands.”
As I watched Apple’s Keynote event, one single thought kept reoccurring in my mind: how secure will the user’s health data be? Physical medical records that are kept in doctors’ offices on paper aren’t vulnerable to hackers. With Apple fighting against the government for backdoor access for the San Bernardino shooter’s cellphone– as well as the iCloud hack that happened in 2014– some people might be reluctant to add personal vitals and health information. Williams concluded his presentation by reassuring users that nothing is more important than their health data and “you decide which apps you use, and who you share this information with.” If Apple is as successful with CareKit as they were with ResearchKit, we could be looking at a huge shift in the way we treat medical conditions. The CareKit application will be available April 1st, 2016.