Apple’s ResearchKit Has High Potential but Major Challenges Are Ahead

While clinical trials struggle to enrol a representative (and diverse enough) group of patients, Apple’s ResearchKit solves this in an instant. Apple has been eager to highlight the high number of patients who have enrolled in studies launched using its platform.

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But alongside the good, which is wide reach, ResearchKit also brings serious challenges. In a recent study published on Wednesday in Jama Cardiology, which reveals the first results of an app that was part of Apple’s much publicised foray into health, researchers detail the good and the bad of ResearchKit.

The good thing was that one of the apps, MyHeart Counts, run by a team at Stanford University has seen an incredible reach with the help of Apple’s platform. Between March and October 2015, nearly 50,000 people from 50 states signed up, and 40,000 of them have submitted health data of some kind.

While that’s an unusually high number of patients, the bad is that only around 5,000 people completed a six-minute walking test, a common proxy for heart health, with their phones in hand, the study reveals. Also, only 1,300 provided all the information needed to calculate their personalised health risks.

As you can see, ResearchKit and the iPhone, while solving various issues researchers have been facing, also brings up others, such as engagement. While the researchers don’t have to ask how many steps the patient climbed on a particular day, because they can measure it, they have to find a way to keep these patients engaged with the apps in order to collect useful data. Does this mean that the traditional way is the only way to conduct studies? Not quite, but researchers and developers have a rough road ahead before they can unleash the full potential of ResearchKit.

You can read more about this study on Buzzfeed.

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