Wednesday, March 11, 2015


I don't know if you've noticed but the Apple Watch seems to be dominating the news this week. Apple made another one of their very fun to watch product announcements and, since then, everywhere I look I see this:

Not that there is anything wrong with seeing this. It is very pretty. 

What I'm not seeing as much of is something that was introduced in another part of Apple's presentation. 

Something that Doug brought to my attention and insisted that I sit down to watch for myself. 

As Apple says, it is "an open source software framework that makes it easy for researchers and developers to create apps that could revolutionize medical studies, potentially transforming medical research forever".  

Basically what it does it is turns your iPhone (with your permission) into a diagnostic tool that can be used to help further medical research. Researchers can create apps that allow users to provide all sorts of medical data. The accelerometer in a phone can be used to conduct a gait analysis or to evaluate motor impairment, the microphone can be used to evaluate speech etc etc. 

Apple has partnered with several large research institutes and together they have developed the first five apps. These apps will help further medical research for breast cancer, parkinson's disease, cardiovascular disease, asthma and, you guessed it, diabetes. 

Users who choose to download one of these apps and participate in research will be able to complete consent forms, fill out surveys, complete tasks or whatever else a particular research study is looking for people to do. 

Users choose what research they participate in, control what information they provide and get to see what data is shared. And Apple does not see any of their data. 

The potential for what this can do to help medical research is enormous considering how many iPhones users are out there. The potential for recruiting people for large-scale studies is incredibly exciting. 

On a personal note, I probably spend less than 5 minutes a year thinking about what a cure for type 1 diabetes might be like. Any more than that feels like a waste of time because a cure is a long long way off and my life is happening right now. 

But as I watched the talk about the potential of ResearchKit for providing vast amounts of data and helping to move research forward at a much faster rate, I was surprised to find my eyes welling up with tears. I was even more surprised to hear a little voice in my head whisper 'maybe this will be how we find a cure'. 

1 comment:

  1. I'm quite interested in seeing what impact ResearchKit might have. (I confess being a little disappointed with HealthKit, although I'm ever the optimist.)

    Around the office we talk a lot about "big data" and "analytics" and "machine learning." I've often thought that there's a huge potential for improvements in diabetes self-management if we can aggregate enough data and have smart systems that look for trends on our behalf.