During Monday's Apple event, the company announced ResearchKit, an open-source framework for developers to use in creating medical research apps. Tuesday morning, Stanford University researchers found out that over 11,000 people had signed up for a cardiovascular study that is one of the first public uses of the tool.
Interviewed by Bloomberg, medical director of Stanford University Cardiovascular Health Alan Yeung noted that "To get 10,000 people enrolled in a medical study normally, it would take a year and 50 medical centers around the country. That's the power of the phone."
That's not the only success story - a team at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai had ore than 2,500 people enroll and consent to participate in an asthma study, and the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research had well over 5,500 consenting users by Tuesday morning.
While participation in the studies is made easy through ResearchKit and the apps developed by researchers, there's some concern that the demographics of iPhone users might sway results. Polling company CivicScience Inc. is cited in the Bloomberg article, noting that the average iPhone users is more likely to have advanced (graduate and doctoral) degrees than the average Android user, and a higher income.
However, there's hope that by having the iPhone measure participant behavior behind the scenes, studies may become more accurate since people have a tendency to lie to researchers about their behavior. As a silent observer that's always watching movement, exercise, or other behaviors, the iPhone can tone down the effects of false reporting.
Our take on the news: While the long-term impact on medical research won't be known until many more studies are concluded, Apple's development of ResearchKit is already showing positive results by bringing a larger pool of participants to existing studies.