iPhone medical app boosts research projects

A tool that can turn an iPhone into a medical tool is contributing to studies in autism, epilepsy and melanoma according to Apple.

The tool named ResearchKit is used by doctors, scientists and other researchers to gather data more frequently and accurately from participants using iPhone apps.

Study participants are able to access an interactive informed consent process, complete active tasks or submit survey responses, and choose how their health data is shared with researchers.

More than 50 researchers have added to the apps coding framework which is open source.

“We’re honoured to work with world-class medical institutions and to be able to provide them with tools which ultimately might help our customers lead healthier lives,” said Jeff Williams, Apple’s senior vice president of operations.

“In just six months, ResearchKit apps studying everything from asthma and diabetes to Parkinson’s disease, are already providing insights to scientists around the world and more than 100,000 participants are choosing to contribute their data to advance science and medical research.”

Data can also be accessed from the Health, providing researchers with information such as weight, blood pressure and glucose levels in addition to other data measured by third-party devices and apps.

The iPhone’s other sensors such as the accelerometer, microphone, gyroscope and GPS can provide additional insight into a participant’s gait, motor impairment, fitness, speech and memory.

Autism & Beyond is one of the first ResearchKit apps launched by Duke University.

The research team uses an emotion detection algorithm in combination with the iPhone’s front-facing camera to detect signs of developmental issues in children.

Children are shown videos and their emotional responses are detected and recorded by the app.

“Autism & Beyond combines well-established screening questionnaires with a new video technology that makes it possible to analyse the emotions of children so that we may one day be able to automate the screening for conditions such as autism and anxiety,” said Ricky Bloomfield, an assistant professor at Duke University.

“ResearchKit enables us to put an entire medical study in a single app, reaching so many more people than we ever could before.”

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