5 Little Known Ways The Apple ResearchKit App Can Add Value To Your Research Study

The BTC Team

The spotlight in today’s research studies 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.

What Else Should You Know About ResearchKit?

ResearchKit provides three modules that can be customized and built upon by 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 publicized successes, 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.

Case in point: ResearchKit did in 24 hours what would normally take 50 medical centers a year – Stanford University. Stanford University said that 11,000 iPhone owners signed up for a heart health study using Apple’s ResearchKit in the first 24 hours–completely unprecedented numbers.

Besides the advantages like higher recruitment and more data from studies, here are five little known ways ResearchKit apps can positively impact your study.

1. Useful Sensors

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 directly from study participants to researchers. Examples of such sensors are accelerometers, gyroscopes, GPS, and microphones.

2. Leverage Video Analysis Technology

This can best be demonstrated by Duke University’s Autism and Beyond Study. This Study leveraged the power of Apple’s ResearchKit to capture video and/or audio as part of a study and use it for further research.

ResearchKit has in-built video analysis technology to quantify and analyze emotions and behavior in children. Their goal was to ensure that parents and researchers could use this technology as a screening tool that would help diagnose behavior-related conditions like autism, anxiety, etc. earlier.

3. Engage Participants Through a (sometimes very long) Research Study

Recruiting is just half the battle. Medical researchers often face an uphill task when it comes to actively engaging 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, and impactful mobile experiences.

All of this ultimately leads to better participant engagement and retention.

4. Push The Frontiers of Research With Innovative Apps

ResearchKit apps can be used to incorporate a new source of data into a study. For example, voice. The team at Boston Technology Corporation recently helped MIT researchers with a new-age app that leverages voice data capture for research. It’s called MIT VoiceUp.

This app was 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. You can read more about the app here.

5. Integrate With HealthKit and CareKit

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

HealthKit: The iPhone’s built-in capabilities allow for a lot of 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 it.

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

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

These are five points you might want to think about if you are thinking 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. The avenues and possibilities it allows you to imagine and explore are definitely worth pursuing.

Do you want to discuss any of this in more detail? Reach out to us; we’re happy to answer your questions.


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