It took less than twenty-four hours for Apple’s new ResearchKit apps to receive thousands of sign-ups. Stanford University’s My Heart Counts app had 11,000 people sign up for the cardiovascular disease-related app.
“To get 10,000 people enrolled in a medical study normally, it would take a year and 50 medical centers around the country,” said Alan Yeung, medical director of Stanford Cardiovascular Health. “That’s the power of the phone.”
The ResearchKit open source framework is designed to allow millions of iPhone users worldwide to participate in medical studies, greatly increasing the sampling numbers of test subjects. With user permission, the apps use the iPhone’s sensors to measure and collect user data such as weight, blood pressure, glucose levels and asthma inhaler use.
ResearchKit also enables direct user surveys and allows users to input data directly into the apps. There is some concern that information collected from iPhone users may skew results due to demographic differences, as the report notes that iPhone users are more likely to have a graduate or doctorate degree than Android users.
While data collected from the apps could also be skewed via a user hitting a button by mistake, or even loaning his device to a friend, researchers believe the increase in participants via the ResearchKit apps is still valuable.