2 years, 8 months ago

Apple begins collecting ResearchKit patient data

This week we learn that apple are collecting Researchkit data from patients taking part in medical research projects. We look at the implications:

What’s happening?
Last year, Apple launched ResearchKit, a platform for building medical research apps. Lots of health data has been collected by researchers from patients and volunteers using these apps. Now Apple is going to start using some of the data collected from two of these apps.

Which apps are they doing this with?
There’s “Mole Mapper”, which uses the iPhone’s camera to track moles based on their size, and “mPower”, a Parkinson’s app that tracks symptoms using data collected via the microphone, gyroscope and accelerometer.

Are they allowed to do this?
When you sign up to use a ResearchKit app, you are giving the researchers permission to use your data, but there’s also the option to allow Apple to use your anonymised data too. Enough people have obviously checked that option for Apple to start using this data.

What about regulatory issues?
The data is not diagnosing anything, and the apps are considered research projects, so the U.S. Drug and Food Administration (FDA), don’t care.

What are they going to do with all this data?
Apple is one of the most secretive companies in the world, we don’t even know what features the next version of the iPhone is going to have, so I don’t think they’re going to give us too many details. But apparently it’s something to do with monitoring the utility of the sensors in Apple’s phones, and assessing how they can be improved in future to better serve digital health.


This post also appears on mPharma, the mobile-first information platform for pharmaceutical executives.

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