ResearchKit and CareKit – Apple’s Vision For Health Apps

Apple ResearchKit (RK) is coming up on its one-year anniversary very shortly, and what a year it’s been for this framework.

From the initial set of 5 apps that were introduced along with the release of the framework last April, the number of apps now using RK has grown to almost 25, with new ones introduced nearly every month.

Besides the apps that directly use RK, a more considerable benefit has been the conversation it’s generated in the research community (a community that tends to be very cautious and slow to adopt any change).

The early adoption of RK has mostly been limited to academia. However, the breadth of applications and innovation it’s sparked has been remarkable.

The “User-Centric Research” Movement Has Never Had a Better Champion Than Apple ResearchKit.

ResearchKit is also inspiring imitations. Cornell Tech is about to release ResearchStack – an SDK (Software Design Kit) and UX (User Experience) design framework that will mirror the functionality of ResearchKit on Android.

There’s also an ionic framework that provides a majority of the Consent and Survey module functionality and will, over time, add selective Active Tasks. The ionic framework can be used to create multi-platform apps. Boston Technology Corporation (BTC) is currently working on developing the first app using this framework.

Recent Additions To ResearchKit

As an open-source framework, Apple ResearchKit has seen a number of additions to it by the developer community over the last few months:

  • 4 New Active Tasks have been added.
  • 1. The PSAT (Paced Serial Addition Test) is used to measure auditory and/or visual information processing speed, flexibility, and the calculation ability of participants by asking them to add single digits that appear on subsequent screens within 2 to 3 seconds.

    2. Reaction time, as the name suggests, measures the time it takes for the user to respond to a visual cue on the device.

    3. The Tone Audiometry Task measures the ability of users to hear different sounds by tracking their response (in the form of taps on a button within the app) to audio tones in different audio frequencies as well as on various channels.

    4. The Timed Walk Task measures users’ lower-extremity functions by asking them to walk a specific distance briskly but safely. It’s a bit different than the fitness and short walk tasks in that the distance it asks the user to walk is always fixed.

  • Chart Classes are now available for use in RK apps.
  • These classes allow the creation of five different types of charts –

    1.Pie Chart

    2. These classes allow the creation of five different types of charts –

    3. These classes allow the creation of five different types of charts –

    4. These classes allow the creation of five different types of charts –

    5. These classes allow the creation of five different types of charts –

  • Apple has also continued to put its weight behind the ResearchKit framework over last year by collaborating with multiple leading academic institutions and provider organizations. It just announced the addition of a new module (developed by 23andMe) to the framework.
  • This module will allow study participants to contribute their genetic data to medical research in a relatively seamless way. Users who already have their generic information with 23andMe can choose to contribute their information to two existing research studies being conducted with two RK apps – the My Heart Counts app (a cardiovascular disease study by Stanford) and the Asthma Health app (an asthma study by Mt. Sinai).

    These apps will combine user-generated data (from participants’ use of the app) with their genetic data (from 23andMe). The Stanford Study, for example, will look at how a participant’s predisposition to heart conditions combined with their activity and lifestyle choices relate to cardiovascular health.

    This is fascinating stuff! (Although it will surely bring up many questions and conversations around privacy. The dangers of mass-based research and the reach of big corporations into the personal health domain are all valid concerns.)

    Apple CareKit

    Apple also announced a new framework called “CareKit” that will enable companies like BTC to build apps so users can manage their medical conditions. They will be able to regularly track symptoms and medications and communicate with their care team.

    The framework itself will be available later this spring. But there are already a couple of apps being worked on that use CareKit – one for managing postsurgical care and another for managing chronic conditions.

    BTC Is An Early Adoptor

    BTC is a looking to be one of the early adopters of the CareKit framework when it becomes available. And we’ll be sure to share more information as it becomes available.

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