Apple’s ResearchKit is “on the verge of becoming medically useful” for researchers studying health issues, STAT reported. Launched in 2015, ResearchKit uses iPhones to collect health information, which allows researchers to conduct studies using the data.
Scientists recently published new data on seizures, asthma attacks, and heart disease using the ResearchKit platform, according to STAT.
ResearchKit still faces challenges for putting results into a broader context. Participants need to own Apple products like an iPhone to take part in the studies, and those with Apple products are younger, wealthier and more educated than the larger population.
Though it's plans aren't fully revealed, Apple clearly sees opportunity in the healthcare industry. Recently, Apple CEO Tim Cook reportedly wore a glucose monitoring device connected to an Apple Watch, and in April, the company reportedly hired a team of biomedical engineers to develop noninvasive sensors that can monitor blood sugar. Also, Apple and Nokia are exploring future collaborations in healthcare.
It’s understandable why Apple sees potential. Technology like iPhones has become key wellness tools for users. They track steps and health information, which can help push people to stay on top of their health.
The question is: can the technology help physicians and health researchers? A recent study on wrist-worn, sensor-based measurements of “heart rate and energy expenditure” tested “the reliability of seven wrist-worn devices in a diverse group of individuals performing walking, running, and cycling at low and high intensity.”
The study found heart rate measurements were “within acceptable error range,” but “none of the devices provided estimates of energy expenditure that were within an acceptable range in any setting.”
“Individuals and practitioners should be aware of the strengths and limitations of consumer devices that measure heart rate and estimate energy expenditure,” wrote the study authors.
As the study results show, we have a way to go before this type of technology can fully integrate into healthcare. So, while Apple is making inroads in healthcare, we also must remain cautious to what degree the tech is ready and the industry is ready to receive it.