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Apple's ResearchKit could help seniors monitor chronic conditions

March 10, 2015
by Richard R. Rogoski
| Reprints

While the eyes of the world focused on the unveiling of Apple's watch, the company also announced the launch, scheduled for April, of ResearchKit—an open source software framework that will help researchers and physicians gather data for medical research.

But there's more to this story than just providing an iPhone app that can help recruit participants for health-related studies. The new toolkit also will help monitor chronic conditions like cardiovascular disease, asthma and diabetes.

When an iPhone user grants permission, individual apps can access data from the phone's health app such as weight, blood pressure and asthma inhaler use. Access also can be granted to use the phone's accelerometer, microphone, gyroscope and GPS sensors to gain insight into a patient’s gait, motor impairment, fitness, speech and memory.

The specific apps were developed by leading medical institutions. Massachusetts General Hospital developed the GlucoSuccess app to help them better understand how lifestyle choices affect blood glucose levels. Stanford Medicine developed the MyHeart Counts app that measures activity and correlates how activity and lifestyle relate to cardiovascular health. And the Asthma Health app, developed by the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and LifeMap Solutions, will provide patient education and self-monitoring in an effort to personalize asthma treatment.

"iOS apps already help millions of customers track and improve their health. With hundreds of millions of iPhones in use around the world, we saw an opportunity for Apple to have an even greater impact by empowering people to participate in and contribute to medical research," said Jeff Williams, Apple’s senior vice president of operations, in a press release. "ResearchKit gives the scientific community access to a diverse, global population and more ways to collect data than ever before."