Apple’s healthcare offering isn’t just for researchers     

Last March, Apple announced ResearchKit, an open source framework for medical research applications that can improve things like trial enrollment and engagement with previously hard-to-reach study populations.  Our work with ResearchKit can be found here. In one short year, this groundbreaking announcement has transformed the way medical data is collected for the better and we’re thrilled to have been a part of it, even in some small way.

Through our experience, we have observed an amazing benefit of generating data for research in the context of a person’s daily life: People enrolled in the app-based trials have been using the data they’ve generated to have real-time conversations with their doctors about their care! As a result, a new dimension of mobile research has been created; sharing research data in real-time to provide the immediate benefit of facilitating better conversations with care teams about treatment. In fact, we even saw studies evolve to include new features, such as a “Doctor Dashboard” that makes these conversations easier.  In some cases, the new gold standard of evaluations could even produce a score that highlights significant change or at-risk conditions, such as those seen in the GINA evaluation for asthma.  This blurring of the line between research study and point-of-care communication tool is important, but also a bit tricky. As marketers, we must be careful not to introduce interventions that transform what was a research application into a regulated medical device extension or application. That means no algorithms that could result in a “Alert! Call 911 now!” or something less startling, but equally as prescriptive. That is the guardrail that must be respected: research applications gather data (pull), whereas medical device apps gather data and provide feedback (pull and push). We can respect this by staying in the realm of gathering research data only and then providing the means for it to be surfaced during a real-time patient-doctor discussion.

To that end, we are thrilled to see the introduction of CareKit
. CareKit extends the patient-doctor relationship by providing the means for remote continuity of care. In its own right, CareKit is as equally transformative as ResearchKit for healthcare.

Now let’s imagine what can happen when we combine the two? We can have one part of the app built for clinical trial participation (the ResearchKit component, for data generation only); the other part generates data and shares that directly with the doctor for evaluation (the CareKit component, for data generation + passive sharing). The doctor can then use the CareKit component of the app to issue changes to the care plan based on the insights informed by the data.  Furthermore, the doctor can assign additional assessments throught CareKit, which may go beyond the scope of the research study itself, but can ensure better monitoring of total health, such as noting changes in co-morbidities, in an equally real-time manner.

The first few applications using the CareKit framework are listed on Apple’s website and include: a Postsurgical care app, a Chronic conditions app, and a Diabetes management application. When it comes to personal care needs, we believe the possibilities are endless. While most hospital networks have successfully launched patient portal applications to access electronic health records, just imagine what adding in daily health information will do to doctor visits.  In a newly released book titled "The Lucky Years: How to Thrive in the Brave New World of Health”, author David B Agus, M.D. describes this change as follows:

"Today when you go to the doctor for a wellness checkup, you make an appointment far in advance and then visit the doctor’s office to get your data collected, including blood pressure, weight, and other routine lab tests. The only preparation you make beforehand is probably mental: organizing any questions you might have for your doctor and trying not to feel nervous about the visit. Several days after your appointment, someone in your doctor’s office calls you back with the results of any tests or lab work that was performed. Sometimes no one even bothers to call you if everything comes back as “normal.”

A future doctor’s visit, on the other hand, will be all about putting the data collected into context so you can know what’s best for you. You won’t go there to collect data. Instead, you will go in with your data. Some examples that I foresee: A week prior to your appointment, you will mail a biochip to your doctor’s office that contains a drop of blood from a finger prick that can be analyzed. Your smartphone and other portable devices, some of which will be wearable like watches or bracelets, will be equipped with all sorts of technologies to measure various features about your health." 

Dr. Agus’ vision for the future has arrived, and we can’t wait to be a part of this transformation. If you have any questions regarding how to use ResearchKit or CareKit framework to meet the needs of your study or patient care, feel free to reach out.

Co-Authored by: AJ Triano, VP of Digital and Christina Kellman, Sr. Director of Marketing