Clinical Trials Go Virtual for iPhone Users

Apple allows all iPhone users to become virtual trial participants.

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Apple is giving its 700-million iPhone users the chance to become participants in virtual clinical trials to advance medical research.

According to a Fierce Biotech IT article, Apple is using an open-source framework called ResearchKit to allow apps to collect medical data from mobile phones.The Apple-made framework takes data from the iPhone’s accelerometer, microphone, and GPS sensor, among other tools, to generate medical data that researchers can use. Information collected in the iPhone’s Health repository, where users can enter data from medical devices, can also be shared via ResearchKit.

The framework is already benefiting the medical research community. Using ResearchKit, a recent study on Parkinson’s disease broke records on user recruitment, with 7,406 iPhone users signing up for the study within six hours.

With ResearchKit, trial participants decide whether their data is shared solely with study researchers or if it can be released into the broader medical research community. Virtual trial participants are also able to leave a trial at any time, but any data collected up until that point cannot be withdrawn. Apple will be supplying its ResearchKit framework to Google app developers next month so that research pools can open up to all smartphone users.

It will be interesting to see in the coming months if ResearchKit will accelerate the pace of Type 1 diabetes research, as getting adequate numbers for a study can be difficult.

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Travis served as a staff writer for Insulin Nation and Type 2 Nation in 2015. Previously, he was a staff writer for Insight, a high school newspaper, as well as a copywriter for The Emersonian, Emerson's yearbook.