ResearchKit: Making Apple The Largest Medical Research Enabler

Apple doesn’t see any of the data shared on ResearchKit, while users will also have full control over what they share

The biggest hindrance for researchers in medicine are small sample sizes, inaccuracy in data and the lack of diverse samples.
Looking to solve this issue is Apple, which has unveiled an open-source framework called ResearchKit,  that will help gather data more frequently and accurately from subjects using iPhones.
Apple ResearchKit
The company has partnered with 12 research institutions, including the University of Oxford and Stanford. Researchers have already built apps to study asthma, breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease, using ResearchKit.
Tests designed using ResearchKit will make use of the plethora of iPhone sensors. A test for Parkinson’s disease calls for people to tap the touchscreen to detect inconsistencies, the accelerometer can map a person’s balance and gait while walking and even the microphone can be used to detect fluctuations in a person’s voice.
ResearchKit will also make it easier to recruit participants for medical testing, and allows for a broader section of the global population to to take part. Further, participants can complete tasks or surveys right from the app, meaning researchers need not spend time segregating and filing data.
While users might feel uncomfortable to share their medical information with a large money minting organization like Apple, the firm assures users that it won’t see any of the data. Further, users will have full control over what information they share as part of each study.
The question of malpractice and cyber attacks however could be a potential turn off for many, especially given the abundance of highly personal information being shared. Data security will be a key to the success of ResearchKit, but the impact of large-scale data collection for medical research has the potential to be revolutionary.
The goal behind ResearchKit is to empower hundreds of millions of iPhone users to around the world to contribute and participate in medical research. Apple does stand to gain a lot by becoming one of the largest medical research enablers, but the fact that the company is using its platform to ‘do good’ can’t  be ignored.

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