Apple’s ResearchKit available today to developers and medical researchers

ResearchKit teaser 003

Today, Apple’s made good on its promise to make ResearchKit available to developers and medical researchers. As announced in a media release Tuesday, medical researchers can tap into ResearchKit to write custom apps while developers are permitted to contribute new research modules to ResearchKit.

ResearchKit was designed as an open source software framework to help doctors and scientists mass-gather accurate data from participants using specialized iPhone apps. With today’s ResearchKit release, it’s now possible to create medical apps for Android in a true open-source fashion.

From the mouth of Jeff Williams, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Operations, a post previously occupied by Tim Cook in his pre-CEO years.

We are delighted and encouraged by the response to ResearchKit from the medical and research community and the participants contributing to medical research. Studies that historically attracted a few hundred participants are now attracting participants in the tens of thousands.

Medical researchers all over the world are actively exploring how ResearchKit can help them study even more diseases, and we believe the impact on global understanding of health and wellness will be profound.

The initial customizable modules in ResearchKit have been designed to cover the most used elements that commonly occur in research studies: participant consent, surveys and active tasks.

  • Participant consent: Participant consent is a critical element to research studies, and with ResearchKit researchers can access a visual e-consent template that can be customized to explain the details of the study and obtain participant signatures. This module makes it easy for the researcher to include elements such as video segments explaining the study and an interactive quiz to confirm the participant’s understanding.
  • Surveys: The survey module provides a pre-built user interface that makes it easy to customize questions and answers for study participants to complete and immediately share with researchers.
  • Active Tasks: The Active Task module enables researchers to gather more targeted data for their study by inviting participants to perform activities that generate data using iPhone’s advanced sensors. Initial Active Task modules include tasks to measure motor activities, fitness, cognition and voice, and with the framework available as open source, the research community can contribute even more active tasks to ResearchKit.

Yesterday, Apple and IBM announced a new deal that will see the two companies (which currently partner on enterprise iOS software and distribution) share data obtained through the iPhone maker’s HealthKit and ResearchKit platforms with third-parties like Johnson & Johnson and others.

ResearchKit teaser 001

IBM’s Health Cloud will store anonymized health data in a secure cloud system, with ResearchKit apps able to store, aggregate and model data, enriching research.

To this date, the five ResearchKit-powered apps available in the App Store have been used by some 60,000 patients to help crowd-source studies of diabetes, asthma, cardiovascular disease and more, said the company.

Among them is Apple’s own Parkinson’s disease app, which uses a finger-tapping test to determine the patient’s speed of movement. Other available apps include My Heart Counts (shown below) for cardiovascular disease, Asthma Health, GlucoSuccess for diabetes and Share the Journey, for a study of the aftereffects of treatment for breast cancer.

Apps for more diseases are planned.

ResearchKit My Heart Counts iPhone screenshot 003

Interactive studies provided by these apps are U.S. only for the time being, though Apple does plan international study launches.

Details on how to access the open source framework are available at, with additional information found on Apple’s official ResearchKit micro-site.

Additional resources are available on Github here and here.

As the Wall Street Journal reported today, traditional medical surveys cost big money and are not very reliable. This is where ResearchKit can help make a big difference. For instance, pharmaceutical companies need scores of research sites and hundreds of millions of dollars to find 20,000 patients for a major drug trial.

Source: Apple