Apple's latest move to take a bigger bite out of health care

CareKit will launch in April

Apple on Monday introduced CareKit, a new open-source platform for making health care applications that it hopes will help patients monitor their health and coordinate with providers.

CareKit—like Apple's ResearchKit, a framework for developing medical research applications—will provide software developers with a set of tools to simplify the process of designing medical applications. When CareKit is released next month, developers will be able to build off of four modules designed by Apple:

Is Apple already changing health care? Thousands sign up for trials through ResearchKit

  • Care Card, which helps patients track their care and health plans, such as their exercise or taking of medications;
  • Symptom and Measurement Tracker, which tracks data such as body weight and blood pressure;
  • Insight Dashboard, which combines data from the first two modules to determine how effective a treatment plan is; and
  • Connect, which helps patients securely share their health information.

In a release, Apple COO Jeff Williams says the company is "thrilled" with the success of ResearchKit and wants to use what it learned developing the platform to serve more patients directly. "We believe that giving individuals the tools to understand what is happening with their health is incredibly powerful," he says, adding that "apps designed using CareKit make this a reality by empowering people to take a more active role in their care."

Initial partners

Several providers already have plans to use CareKit. For instance, Johns Hopkins Medicine, Emory Healthcare, University of Rochester Medical Center, Stanford Medicine, and the University of California, San Francisco will use a CareKit-enabled application to help patients monitor their Parkinson's symptoms, Apple said in a presentation Monday.

And Texas Medical Center has built an application for cardiothoracic surgery patients that incorporates data from health monitoring devices and can transmit health information back to doctors, according to Fast Company.

In addition, One Drop, a diabetes management application, plans to use CareKit to track information such as average glucose, total insulin, and activity tracking. 

Williams says he expects the number of CareKit applications to grow rapidly. "We can't wait to see what a great apps get created."

ResearchKit update

In addition, Apple announced that it updated ResearchKit to allow researchers to further integrate genetic data into studies, using a module designed by personal genetics company 23andMe.

The company also unveiled three ResearchKit studies that will incorporate genetic data:

  • The University of North Carolina School of Medicine and the international Postpartum Depression: Action Towards Causes and Treatment Consortium will use an iPhone app called PPD ACT to study the genetics of why some women are affected by postpartum depression;
  • The MyHeart Counts app, developed by Stanford Medicine, will use data from 23andMe customers to study how a genetic predisposition to heart conditions and participants' lifestyle and activities relate to heart health; and
  • The Asthma Health app, designed by the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and LifeMap Solution, will use data from 23andMe customers to study ways to personalize treatment for asthma.

Eric Schadt, a professor of genomics at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, says ResearchKit is allowing researchers to study patients with asthma "more broadly than ever before." He adds, that "through the large amounts of data we're able to gather from iPhone, we're understanding how factors like environment, geography, and genes influence one's disease and response to treatment" (Mole, Arstechnica, 3/21; Captain, Fast Company, 3/21; Mottl, FierceMobileHealthcare, 3/21; Jayanthi, Becker's Health IT & CIO Review, 3/21; Sullivan, Healthcare IT News, 3/21; Apple release [1] 3/21; Apple release [2], 3/21; Comstock, MobiHealthNews, 3/21; Comstock, Healthcare IT News, 3/22; Belluck, New York Times, 3/21).

Apple, Microsoft, and more: Your guide to health care mobile device usage policies

As the capabilities, complexity, and available number of mobile devices increase, so does usage of these devices by health care stakeholders—and so does the need for mobile device management. To manage and secure these devices and associated mobile environments, providers must create and expand policies backed up by technology.

This report discusses the necessity of health care mobility policies, includes recommendations on what should be included in those policies, provides best/appropriate practices, and offers advice for dealing with numerous challenges providers encounter, such as bring your own device policies.

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