Apple unveiled an initiative to help researchers tackle some of the world's most critical medical conditions by gathering real-time data from willing iPhone users. In collaboration with medical research centers, Apple will gather data through medical tracking apps developed for its new ResearchKit platform to aid research on asthma, breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and Parkinson's disease.
The program may speed up efforts to collect and analyze data by using the iPhone for monitoring the user's movements, glucose level and other medical information. It aims to help research by getting more frequent data than is available during conventional research studies, while at the same time protecting privacy. Apple chief executive Tim Cook said, "The move aims to transform medical research by gathering real-time data from millions of users."
Jeff Williams, Apple's senior vice president of operations, said, "The initiative turns the iPhone into a diagnostic tool. ResearchKit gives the scientific community access to a diverse, global population and more ways to collect data than ever before."
Apple said, "Users decide if they want to participate in a study and how their data is shared." To participate in Parkinson's research, for example, volunteers will allow for measurement of dexterity, balance and gait, voice and memory at multiple times per day. Diabetes and asthma can be tracked with devices that connect to the iPhone.
Jan Dawson at Jackdaw Research said, "The program appears to change the model for medical research. In the healthcare space, many companies have tried to use technology to transform key processes, but the focus has been almost exclusively on transforming them from the enterprise out. What's unique about Apple's ResearchKit is that it works from the consumer-in. In other words, it empowers consumers rather than healthcare providers and in the process changes the healthcare research model."
"The data collected will provide takes us one step closer to developing more personalized care. Access to more diverse patient-reported health data will help us learn more about long-term aftereffects of cancer treatments and provide us with a better understanding of the breast cancer patient experience," said Patricia Ganz, director of cancer research at UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center.