Posted by:Shyam Deval March 9th, 2017
Apple's ResearchKit

The spotlight is firmly on Apple’s framework, ResearchKit. ResearchKit is an open source software framework that provides core functionality for developers to build mobile apps to use for medical research.

ResearchKit provides three modules that can be customized and built upon by the app developers. These modules provide base functionality for items commonly needed in medical research such as surveys, participant consent and simple active tasks that users perform such as walking, sitting and talking. The data generated by the surveys and active tasks is then made available to the researchers to analyze.

But, despite its widely publicised successes ( More here on how Stanford got 10000 participants in 24 hours), the medical and clinical research community is still not completely clear about the potential benefits and advantages that a ResearchKit app can bring to their study.

Besides the big ones, higher recruitment and more data from studies, here are 5 little known ways ResearchKit apps can positively impact your study


1) All those useful sensors:

Yes, all those sensors available on tablets, smartphones, activity monitors, smartwatches, medical devices and more can be leveraged by ResearchKit to generate relevant, real time, useful data direct from study participants to researchers. Examples of such sensors are accelerometers, gyroscope, GPS and the microphone.


2) Leveraging video analysis technology :

This can be best demonstrated by Duke University’s Autism and Beyond study. This study leverages the power of Apple’s ResearchKit to capture video and/or audio as part of a study and use it for further research. This app has in-built video analysis technology to quantify and analyze emotions and behavior in children. Their goal is to ensure that parents and researchers can use this technology one day lead to a screening tool that can help diagnose behavior related conditions like autism, anxiety etc earlier in kids.


3) Engaging participants through a ( sometimes really long) research study : 

Recruiting is just half the battle. Medical researchers often face an uphill task when it comes to actively engaging with participants through the course of the study and ensuring their valuable inputs are provided until the end. Study participants now demand apps that provide them with an interface and experience that’s as intuitive and appealing as consumer apps. ResearchKit apps can be designed to have trend-depicting dashboards, push notifications, custom branding, engaging videos, multi-language support and more – in short, an impactful mobile experience. All of it ultimately leading to better participant engagement and retention.


4) Pushing the frontiers of research with innovative apps

ResearchKit apps can be used to incorporate a new source of data into the study. For example, voice. We, at Boston Technology, recently helped MIT researchers with a new-age app that leverages voice data capture for research. Called MIT VoiceUp, this app has been designed to help researchers elucidate links between vocal biomarkers and neuropsychological disorders. The app seeks to use state of the art neuroimaging techniques and vocal analysis to explore the brain mechanisms underlying voice changes in adults with depression. Read more about the app here.


5) Integration with HealthKit and CareKit

ResearchKit apps can be taken one step further and integrated with HealthKit and CareKit.

The iPhone’s built-in capabilities allow for a lot patient generated data to be collected through the Health App. HealthKit is a framework that allows all healthcare and fitness apps to work together and collects all this data in one convenient place. This can enable developers to either add to this data or explore this data.

CareKit allows developers to build apps that focus on patient-centric care and patient empowerment. These apps can help patients to manage their conditions better and help physicians track effectiveness of treatments.

By integrating with HealthKit and CareKit, ResearchKit can open up whole new streams and sources of data that with consent, can be captured and used for better outcomes.

That’s 5 points you might want to think about if you are mulling about a research study app. The arrival of Apple’s ResearchKit was the first step towards a long and great journey towards new peaks in the world of research, and the avenues and possibilities it allows you to imagine and explore are definitely mind-boggling!

Have more questions or want to discuss any of these in more detail? Reach out to us, we are happy to take your questions!

Image Source: hitconsultant.net

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