CareKit – Apple’s Big Move in Healthcare Apps

Healthcare apps
Healthcare apps

Doctors around the world are using iPhone to transform the way we think about health and Apple has been instrumental in pairing medicine and mobile technology through its series of kits. In Apple launched ResearchKit in March 2015, an open source software framework to help scientists and doctors not only create medical apps but also recruit patients for clinical trials and research products.

With ResearchKit iPhone turned to be a powerful tool for medical research. When granted permission by the user, apps can access data from the Health app such as weight, blood pressure, glucose levels and asthma inhaler use, which are measured by third-party devices and apps. ResearchKit can also request from a user, access to the accelerometer, microphone, gyroscope and GPS sensors in iPhone to gain insight into a patient’s gait, motor impairment, fitness, speech and memory.

In March this year, they announced CareKit, a new development framework for clinical care apps.  CareKit is a new software framework that’s designed to help app developers build software focused on medical care. Based on this framework we can expect new software for the iPhone and Apple Watch that enables patients to monitor ongoing medical conditions, track medicine intake and exercise, and share the data with their doctors. The software is designed help developers enable people to actively manage their own medical conditions through app-based care plans, and symptom and medication monitoring. This can leads to insights that help people better understand their own health.

CareKit makes it much simpler for developers to create apps that track medical care. Activities can be tracked using sensors in the Apple Watch or the iPhone, including the accelerometer and gyroscope. Data can be shared across multiple CareKit apps or with doctors or relatives.

One example Apple offers is an upcoming app called EpiWatch, which allows you to send a notification to a friend of relative when a seizure is imminent; another called Start, by Iodine, helps people taking antidepressants to establish whether their medication is producing the desired results. But the possibilities are limited only by the imagination of developers, which is one of Apple’s strong suits.

Another example is ; Research has shown that early treatment of developmental issues can lead to higher IQs and better social skills. The Autism & Beyond app uses the front-facing HD camera in iPhone, along with innovative facial recognition algorithms, to analyse emotional reactions to videos in children as young as 18 months. And children can be screened without having to see a specialist in person, allowing for earlier diagnosis and treatment. The app successfully enrolled more people in the first month than a previous nine-month onsite study did.

CareKit currently includes four modules:

Care Card helps people track their individual care plans and action items, such as taking medication or completing physical therapy exercises. Activities can automatically be tracked and entered using sensors in Apple Watch® or iPhone

Symptom and Measurement Tracker lets users easily record their symptoms and how they’re feeling, like monitoring temperature for possible infections or measuring pain or fatigue. Progress updates could include simple surveys, photos that capture the progression of a wound or activities calculated by using the iPhone’s accelerometer and gyroscope, like quantifying range of motion;

Insight Dashboard maps symptoms against the action items in the Care Card to easily show how treatments are working

Connect makes it easy for people to share information and communicate with doctors, care teams or family members about their health and any change in condition

Research kits has been met with positive results from the medical community. “With ResearchKit, we quickly realized the power of mobile apps for running inexpensive, high-quality clinical studies with unprecedented reach,” said Ray Dorsey, MD, David M. Levy Professor of Neurology at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

What is missing from AppleKits?

It’s notable that while Apple has been working hard to create software platforms suitable for iPhone apps, there has been something of a missed opportunity for engagement with other connected devices utilized now (or in the future) by health professionals that would utilize CareKit. For example, whilst patients can share medical data with doctors, there is no corresponding platform for integrating the data into patient electronic health records or a means to compare the data with other patients utilizing the same app. Whilst patient adherence is a common challenge of any health regime, without tools to ensure health professionals can also do so with the resultant data is imperative.

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