Apple software turns iPhones into powerful tools for medical research

“Jody Kearns doesn’t like to spend time obsessing about her Parkinson’s disease. The 56-year-old dietitian from Syracuse, New York, had to give up bicycling because the disorder affected her balance. But she still works, drives and tries to live a normal life,” Brandon Bailey reports for The Associated Press. “Yet since she enrolled in a clinical study that uses her iPhone to gather information about her condition, Kearns has been diligently taking a series of tests three times a day. She taps the phone’s screen in a certain pattern, records a spoken phrase and walks a short distance while the phone’s motion sensors measure her gait. ‘The thing with Parkinson’s disease is there’s not much you can do about it,’ she said of the nervous-system disorder, which can be managed but has no cure. ‘So when I heard about this, I thought, ‘I can do this.””

“More than 75,000 people have enrolled in health studies that use specialized iPhone apps, built with software Apple Inc. developed to help turn the popular smartphone into a research tool,” Bailey reports. “Once enrolled, iPhone owners use the apps to submit data on a daily basis, by answering a few survey questions or using the iPhone’s built-in sensors to measure their symptoms. Scientists overseeing the studies say the apps could transform medical research by helping them collect information more frequently and from more people, across larger and more diverse regions, than they’re able to reach with traditional health studies.”

“Researchers also say a smartphone’s microphone, motion sensors and touchscreen can take precise readings that, in some cases, may be more reliable than a doctor’s observations. These can be correlated with other health or fitness data and even environmental conditions, such as smog levels, based on the phone’s GPS locater,” Bailey reports. “But if smartphones hold great promise for medical research, experts say there are issues to consider when turning vast numbers of people into walking test subjects… Researchers say apps must be designed to ask questions that produce useful information, without overloading participants or making them lose interest after a few weeks. Study organizers also acknowledge that iPhone owners tend to be more affluent and not necessarily an accurate mirror of the world’s population.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Apple has made ResearchKit open source. So, anyone can contribute to the next big medical breakthrough, even the ignorati who’ve mistakenly settled for iPhone knockoffs.

With any luck, perhaps we’ll find out exactly why those who settle for Android are shorter, unhealthier, and far less charitable than Apple iPhone users.

Seriously, this is Apple changing the world for the better. Contribute to ResearchKit if you can.

SEE ALSO:
ResearchKit, Apple’s medical data experiment, explained – May 20, 2015
Apple announces ResearchKit available today to medical researchers – April 14, 2015
Why Apple’s ResearchKit signals a golden age for health care – March 28, 2015
ResearchKit: The inside story of how Apple’s revolutionary medical research platform was born – March 19, 2015
Apple’s open source ResearchKit will change the world for the better – March 9, 2015
Apple debuts ResearchKit, giving medical researchers the tools to revolutionize medical studies – March 9, 2015

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