ResearchKit by Apple – A Great Innovation But with Limited Reach

ResearchKit by Apple  – A Great Innovation But with Limited Reach

Apple announced an innovative new medical research platform, ResearchKit, which is an open-source piece of software that is intended to be utilised by medical professionals working towards curing or mitigating diseases. The concept is a real boon to the research community and everyone involved, but unfortunately, their reach is far too limited.

Clinical Participants Communicate Remotely

The beauty of this program is that now participants in clinical studies can report in via their smart mobile devices and doctors can access that data real time. There will be no long delays whilst information is compiled and circulated. Information is accessible the moment the participant uploads via his or her iPhone.

ResearchKit and iPhone Apps

The technology will enable patients to use iPhone apps that work in conjunction with ResearchKit. The program utilises the phones hardware and software along with added functionality, e-consent. It is thought that e-consent will pass Institutional Review Board barriers, enhancing functionality.

Preventing Time Related Memory Loss

One of the problems with many medical research studies is that patients can’t remember what they were feeling or experiencing at certain intervals between times of reporting in. According to the director of Dana Farber Cancer Institute’s Adult Survivorship Program, Ann Partridge, survivors of breast cancer can’t recall what they were feeling weeks earlier.

The Institute is attributed as being one of the developers of a module within the ResearchKit software program. There are five ‘inaugural’ apps in all. Partridge believes that this real-time reporting will improve quantity as well as quality of the data they are analysing with each study.

Some Health Bloggers Commend Apple – Others Have Questions

According to blogger David Pogue, the five apps for asthma, diabetes, heart health, Parkinson’s disease and breast cancer could have a huge impact on treatments. He commends Apple for having no apparent monetary motives.

On the other hand, other bloggers question whether or not this is true because of what they feel is an intended limited reach. Their theory is that ResearchKit should be accessible to those who don’t utilise Apple architecture. To back this up, they state that only 14.8% of smartphone users around the world run iOS (Apple framework) and that is based on old statistics from 2013. Later estimates lower that number significantly.

Since the other roughly 85%+ of patients utilise other smartphone technology, most notably Android, they will be excluded from participating. The question then becomes, is the data being reported by ResearchKit reliable based on a small portion of the population with the diseases in question?

Wouldn’t it have been much more logical to work in conjunction with the Google team to provide a software solution usable with Android smartphones? A partnership between the two giants would have opened the ResearchKit technology up to a vast number of participants rather than limiting it to a select few.

Are Apple’s motivations as altruistic as some believe? Only the future will tell if and when ResearchKit goes multi-platform.



Paul Budd

Co-Founder and Business Development Director

Paul is an experienced sales & marketing leader within the healthcare sector and is a Co-Founder of Salus Digital. He is a Digital Health enthusiast with a passion for extending the reach of technology to improve patient’s lives and reduce the strain on healthcare services.

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  • Mike

    Apple have announced that Research Kit will be open source. This means that anyone could implement it on any other device, be it Android, Windows or whatever else comes along.