Apple has made its ResearchKit medical platform available to developers and the healthcare community in a move that could have major implications for medical research and diagnosis.
ResearchKit was introduced in March, and Apple claims that some 60,000 iPhone users have already embraced the resulting research apps which focus on major issues such as asthma, breast cancer, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease.
"We are delighted and encouraged by the response from the medical and research community and the participants contributing to medical research," said Jeff Williams, Apple's senior vice president of operations.
"Studies that historically attracted a few hundred participants are now attracting participants in the tens of thousands.
"Medical researchers all over the world are actively exploring how ResearchKit can help them study even more diseases, and we believe the impact on global understanding of health and wellness will be profound."
This is a good way of increasing Apple's customer base, which is reflected in its relationship with IBM that has already made use of the health-related output.
It also represents a good opportunity for the health community to pull in information about sickness and disease that would not otherwise have been readily available.
Developers can use the open source ResearchKit tools to build their own apps and share them with the community, and enhance studies into illnesses including diabetes, asthma, Parkinson's and breast cancer.
Consumers will be able to gain more understanding about their illnesses, and play a part in research and discovery.
Given the appropriate permissions, the iPhone can share information from its gyroscope, microphone and GPS, for example, to provide a view of lifestyle and mobility.
"ResearchKit could help us reach people all over the world who are willing to contribute to medical research but might not know how or be able to get involved," said Ricky Bloomfield, director of mobile technology strategy, and assistant professor in internal medicine and paediatrics, at Duke University.
Kenneth Mandl, chair in biomedical informatics and population health at the Boston Children's Hospital, added: "Because of the ubiquity of the iPhone and the elegant implementation of consent, survey and instrumented data collection, ResearchKit has enormous promise for leading the transformation of how we engage patients in research."
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