Hyperbolic live blogging Apple’s ResearchKit

It’s always dangerous to post live comments during an Apple live event, particularly if you’re a rabid early adopter, fan-person admirer of Apple products, but oh well…

ResearchKit is an absolute gamechanger for health/medical research. It has potential to be the best thing to happen to behavioral research in a generation.

My real-time almost certain to be amended thoughts (in no order whatsoever):

  • ResearchKit will be open source. That’s great for all of the usual reasons. But it’s a savvy business move. This ensures less friction for integrating ResearchKit applications in National Institutes of Health grants. Counterintuitively [for those who don’t attend to these things], it will also help ease concerns about privacy.
  • We all struggle with patient recruitment, particularly when we don’t see them in clinic. Some of the biggest problems: finding people, recruiting, consenting, paying, and retaining them. Problem solved greatly mitigated.
  • ResearchKit might open a new market for study discovery and participant recruitment.
  • It its promotional materials, Apple is positioning ResearchKit for observational data collection. For this to work with intervention science, we’ll have to build ResearchKit hooks into health/medicine apps. It will be interesting to see what APIs Apple makes available. If Apple history is a guide, don’t expect this to happen right away.
  • If Apple allows ResearchKit to hook into non-resarch apps, watch out. Aside from cool new data, the commercial market for data aggregation will explode.
  • There is potential for changing the way that we run big cohort studies (e.g., Nurse’s Health Study, Jackson Heart Study, CARDIA, Framingham). Will it be cheaper to send every study participant an iPhone, versus the usual approach of creating, sending, scanning, and collating data from paper surveys? Probably. Incidentally, the National Institutes of Health has been funding fewer of these cohort studies, likely given resource constraints. Time to beef up on those epidemiology skills.
  • The ability to collect contextual data is going to be “great.” Beep. “We see that you’re inside Big Jo’s Burger Barn. How many minutes do you think it will take to burn that burger off?” Get ready for new science on in-vivo data collection.
  • We don’t yet know how ResearchKit will integrate with Apple Watch, but there is great potential for integrating new health metrics [particularly as Apple enhances Watch’s sensors].
  • Yes, some people will freak about the idea of a researcher collecting data from their Snapchatting device. There will be at least 1200 blog posts on the topic this week alone. I think that’ll be a short term problem though (how many cameras are pointed at you right now?).
  • That fancy new research data collection platform we’re creating [as I write]? History.