Apple (AAPL) ResearchKit Introduced for Medical Research, Use

PHOTO: Apple Vice President of Operations Jeff Williams discusses ResearchKitPlayEric Risberg/AP Photo
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Apple says it wants to turn the iPhone into a "powerful" tool for medical research and collect health data from users. ResearchKit is an open-source software kit designed for medical and health research to help doctors and scientists gather data from willing participants.

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ResearchKit was among several announcements at today’s highly anticipated event in San Francisco. Research institutions like the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Sage Bionetworks have already used it for breast cancer studies. Their app, called "Share the Journey: Mind, Body and Wellness after Breast Cancer," tracks five issues related to breast cancer treatment: fatigue, cognitive difficulties, sleep disturbances, mood changes and reduction in exercise performance.

"In a traditional clinical study, you’d be thrilled to find 500 research ‘subjects.’ But imagine what is possible when you can quickly and reliably activate 20,000 research ‘partners,'" Dr. Stephen Friend, Sage Bionetworks president, said. "More importantly, participants need to be equal partners and be able to track changes in their own symptoms."

The Share the Journey app, supported by and other community organizations, is open to women in the United States between the ages of 18 and 80, with or without a history of breast cancer.

Other groups are using the tool to research Parkinson's disease, cardiovascular disease and asthma, Apple says.

The Asthma Health app, developed by the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and LifeMap Solutions, used ResearchKit to facilitate asthma patient education and self-monitoring among other uses.

ResearchKit also makes it easier to recruit participants for large-scale studies, but users choose in which studies to participate and the data they want to provide in each study, Apple says.