Apple ResearchKit spurs new studies; thousands sign up

A week after Apple debuted ResearchKit, thousands are signing up to participate in disease investigation efforts while companies launch medical research projects and apps for the smartphone-based platform.

ResearchKit is an open source framework that lets iPhone users participate in medical trials and studies through health data sharing capabilities. Using ResearchKit, medical researchers will have the ability to cull data through Apple's HealthKit platform and recruit participants for pilots and clinical trials, FierceMobileHealthcare reported last week.

Sage Bionetworks is one of the organizations tapping ResearchKit--with a plan to find patients who will help in the discovery of ways to monitor and manage Parkinson's disease. Sage is launching a study funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The nonprofit research organization has created "mPower," which it describes as an app "that uses a mix of surveys and tasks that activate phone sensors to collect and track health and symptoms of PD progression--like dexterity, balance or gait."

The study could help create ways for better symptoms management and improved tracking of Parkinson patients' treatment, according to the company. 

"We want to understand why some people with PD have different symptoms than other people with PD, and why a person's symptoms and side effects can vary over time. The insights gained from this study may help develop ideas about how to manage these differences in symptoms," according to an announcement on Bionetworks website.

Sage Bionetworks is just one of several early ResearchKit adopters. A Bloomberg report states five academic centers also have apps tapping the iPhone's sensors, accelerometers and GPS capabilities for researching chronic conditions for ResearchKit-based efforts.

According to Apple CEO Tim Cook, during a short appearance on the Mad Money program hosted by Jim Cramer, 11,000 volunteers signed up for another study, one on cardiovascular disease being run through Stanford University, less than 24 hours after Apple debuted ResearchKit. Cook said Stanford said it would normally take 50 medical centers at least 12 months to sign up so many research participants.

Apple also just released app guidelines for HealthKit and ResearchKit. The developer stipulations note that apps must comply with applicable laws, that false and inaccurate data will be rejected and apps that store users' data in iCloud will be rejected.

HealthKit, announced last summer, has already seen some success--with at least 14 hospitals currently piloting the platform, FierceMobileHealthcare reported in early February.

The company also gave more details about its new Watch product last week, but the mHealth functions were lackluster

For more information:
- here's the Sage Bionetworks announcement
- read the Bloomberg report
- check out the Apple guidelines

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