Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Apple's Medical ResearchKit

After most Apple Events, when Apple is introducing new products, their stock price takes a dive. Reality rarely will exceed our imaginations. But at yesterday's "Spring Forward" event, Apple may have avoided the stock dip if they would have rearranged the presentations. They should have made "ResearchKit" the final "one more thing." As a matter of fact, during the "ResearchKit" presentation the stock price shot up, but it became lost in the mix, and was barely reported. It was the one surprising and surprisingly innovative announcement.

As is true with many innovative ideas, it evokes an "of course!" sort of reaction. Medical research has many obstacles. Collecting timely data from a wide range of people in large sizes is a nightmare in logistics, organization, collection, and expense. Apple showed off a platform where medical researchers can issue apps, containing diagnostic tools, for which anyone with a Apple iPhone (and/or watch) may submit real-time personal data to the researcher. (Note: Apple has sold over 700,000,000 iPhones) The data cannot be viewed by Apple. There have already been five apps produced: diagnostics for asthma, breast cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular, and Parkinson's disease. Apple released the ResearchKit framework as open source, so presumably it can be used by others.

I wonder if our medical researchers (Pete, Mike) have thoughts on the concept or the specifics?

Alan Yeung, medical director of Stanford Cardiovascular Health, reported that the number of participants in a Stanford University cardiovascular study conducted using the ResearchKit increased by 10,000 overnight. "To get 10,000 people enrolled in a medical study normally, it would take a year and 50 medical centers around the country," he said.

Jon Wilbanks running a Parkinson's disease research said, "After six hours we have 7406 people enrolled in our Parkinson's study. Largest one ever before was 1700 people."

However, Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice professor Lisa Schwartz was skeptical about the close demographic grouping of iPhone users. "Just collecting lots of information about people — who may or may not have a particular disease, and may or may not represent the typical patient — could just add noise and distraction" He added, "Bias times a million is still bias."

No one likes to read when there's a video, but be warned, this is an Apple video.

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