Apple’s ResearchKit is Being Used in Breakthrough Studies

Apple’s ResearchKit is Being Used in Breakthrough Studies

When ResearchKit first came out, Apple CEO Tim Cook predicted it will transform medical research. A platform designed to collect and collate data in an unbiased way, ResearchKit is aimed at researchers and developers. With ResearchKit, people have been enabled to create iPhone apps that collect data on various aspects of human health and development in a novel way.

Initially, Apple demonstrated the value of its innovation by providing applications for five common health conditions: asthma, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, breast cancer and heart conditions.

An app for Parkinson’s, for example, included a few simple tests that are usually administered by a doctor to assess the patient for typical symptoms of this neurological condition.

In October, Apple announced that ResearchKit is proving its worth in some groundbreaking research on autism, epilepsy and melanoma. As forecasted, the platform offered new research possibilities and is being adopted by research groups from various prestigious research facilities.

A New Screening Tool for Autism

Duke University and Duke Medicine, together with international research collaborators, developed an app called Autism & Beyond powered by Apple’s ResearchKit. The Autism & Beyond app might eventually lead to more rapid screening of children with autism and mental health challenges. Parents across the United States are invited to join this study that will provide a wealth of information on child development, someday potentially making it possible to develop a screening tool that could assess children in their home environments.

The study, which uses both standardized questionnaires and new technology, is investigating children’s reactions, behaviors and emotions whilst watching four short videos. The child’s behavior is recorded by the iPhone’s built-in camera. The researchers are looking into the possibilities of using the media captured from the app as a diagnosis tool to spot early developmental issues.

Epiwatch to Detect Epilepsy Seizures

The Epiwatch app uses the Apple Watch together with ResearchKit. Watch’s wearable sensors are being tested to determine if they can detect an epileptic seizure as well as its duration. Johns Hopkins School of Medicine is conducting this study and hopes to develop an app that could assist patients with epilepsy in managing their condition, as well as track and assist with medication adherence. The researchers’ ultimate goal in developing the app is the ability to detect a seizure, predict its duration and alert family members or caregivers if an event occurs.

Data are presently being collected, and people with epilepsy who are able to use the app are eligible to enter the study. Participants are being asked to open the app before a seizure occurs (some with epilepsy can experience auras or warning sensations before a seizure), which allows the app to record and track epileptic events. Moreover, the app also tracks daily medications, documents possible side effects as well as tracking quality of life. The ultimate goal of this app is improving the treatment of epilepsy.

Early Detection of Melanoma

Researchers are now working on developing an iPhone app that could help identify cancerous melanoma at an early stage by allowing people to share images of suspicious lesions.

The idea behind SkinVision — an online assessment that has been tested scientifically and is the first and only skin care app that has already been marked safe for usage in the European Union — is very straightforward. The user takes a picture of the skin abnormality, after which the app analyzes the image and gives the user an immediate recommendation. The app also allows you to track skin changes and share these changes with your dermatologist. The app is not meant to replace a doctor, but aims to increase awareness and understanding of your skin health.

Other Ongoing Studies

ResearchKit enables scientists to expand their pool of research participants and gather more relevant information through the ubiquity of the iPhone, leading to new applicable solutions.

The platform has received an overwhelmingly positive response and is being used around the world. In the past six months, more than 50 research groups have used it as a new research method to measure cognition, fitness, voice and motor activities.

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