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Apple Launches CareKit Platform for Better Health Tracking

March 22, 2016
by Rajiv Leventhal
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Apple, on March 21, announced its newest health healthcare creation, CareKit, an open-source platform designed to help developers enable people to actively manage their own medical conditions.

iPhone apps using CareKit will aim to make it easier for individuals to keep track of care plans and monitor symptoms and medication, providing insights that help people better understand their own health. With the ability to share information with doctors, nurses or family members, CareKit apps help people take a more active role in their health, according to an Apple press release on the announcement.

CareKit will be released as an open-source framework next month. Last year, Apple unveiled ResearchKit, allowing users to participate in clinical trials. ResearchKit builds off HealthKit, which was a health platform Apple launched in 2014 that aimed to connect personally-generated health data and clinical data. Now, CareKit is designed to help developers empower people to take a more active role in their health. “With ResearchKit, we quickly realized the power of mobile apps for running inexpensive, high-quality clinical studies with unprecedented reach,” Ray Dorsey, M.D., David M. Levy Professor of Neurology at the University of Rochester Medical Center, said in a statement. “We hope that CareKit will help us close the gap between our research findings and how we care for our Parkinson’s patients day-to-day. It’s opening up a whole new opportunity for the democratization of research and medicine.”

Apple officials attest that developers of health and wellness apps are excited to build these CareKit modules into apps for Parkinson’s patients, post-surgery progress, home health monitoring, diabetes management, mental health and maternal health. For instance, Seattle-based Sage Bionetworks and the University of Rochester are using CareKit to turn a study involving Sage’s mPower app and Apple’s ResearchKit into a valuable tool to help better inform patients about their condition and care providers about treatment. Sage recently announced that mPower, which tracks symptom variation in Parkinson’s disease, will be the first app to use CareKit.

The mPower app, built by Sage with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, collects data on capacities affected by Parkinson’s disease, including dexterity, balance and gait, memory, and certain vocal characteristics, through tasks that make use of iPhone sensors. The app also allows participants to track when each task is completed alongside the time they take their medication, to help determine the effects of that medicine on their symptoms. Participants also complete regular surveys, rating the severity of their symptoms and what they think makes them better or worse, according to Sage Bionetworks officials.

“mPower allows researchers to follow day-to-day fluctuations in Parkinson’s disease symptoms and allows for insights that would be impossible to achieve when a patient is only being examined every six months,” Stephen Friend, M.D., Ph.D., president of Sage Bionetworks, said in a statement. “This kind of data has never been tracked and captured before, and now with the help of CareKit, we can provide quantitative insights to inform the dialog a person has with a health professional about his or her own disease.”

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