An Update on Apple’s Foray into Healthcare

A decade ago, Apple’s iPhone had yet to be released. Today, a billion people – or almost 14% of the world’s population – have one1. With numbers like these, any product accessible through this revolutionary device has a potentially enormous market. Apple appears cognizant of this truth: confident in the wake of the success of ResearchKit, the company has ventured deeper into the healthcare terrain with the Apple CareKit, an open-source platform for health monitoring apps. In the month since its launch, CareKit already hosts a number of apps catalyzing the industry-wide trend toward increased patient engagement.

ResearchKit and CareKit are fundamentally akin. Both host apps geared toward gathering health data from patients. Both use open source code, so new, innovative apps can be developed without obstruction. And both aim to break down barriers in healthcare by allowing data to be collected and analyzed remotely1. Functionally, however, the two platforms diverge. ResearchKit was designed for apps that aid in subject recruitment and collection of efficacy data for clinical trials. CareKit, on the other hand, is focused not on testing new treatments, but on medical care itself. Through CareKit, Apple hopes patients with a variety of conditions will be able to take a more active and informed role in their care.

It’s not uncommon for someone to forget to take their medicine in the bustle of a busy day, or experience a side effect but have a difficult time getting their doctor on the phone – CareKit delivers resources for such patients to stay on top of their treatment plans. And it does so in a way that is beneficial to everyone involved in the treatment process. Doctors can keep track of their patients’ condition as patients progress through treatment. Patients can log any changes to their symptoms and receive reminders when it’s time to take a pill. Many apps also allow data to be easily shared, opening a new, more accessible line of communication between patients and their care teams2.

The Apps on Apple CareKit Today

So far, a handful of apps have integrated with Apple CareKit:

  • One Drop: Designed for Diabetes patients, One Drop offers a package of features helping users with the dietary, physical, and medical aspects of their treatment. In addition to scheduling their medication, patients can plan and track their nutritional intake, maintain a collection of useful notes and pictures, and more. It can even sync data recorded in other apps, eliminating the need for transcription. A year before integrating with CareKit, One Drop won the Best Design award at the Launch Festival in San Francisco3.
  • Start: The largest post-clinical study of antidepressants ever conducted found that an effective treatment should start showing results within six weeks. This study was the basis of Start, an app for depression patients created by Iodine Inc. and designed to help patients assess how well a depression treatment is working. In addition to medication reminders and symptom trackers, the app allows patients to set personal goals and access advice from professionals and other patients4.
  • Glow Nurture/Glow Baby: Glow, a company making health tracking products focusing on early motherhood, has integrated two apps with Apple CareKit. One, Glow Nurture, aims to empower women to have the healthiest and most informed pregnancy possible through data tracking, access to expert advice, and more. After the baby is born, the mother can use the other app, Glow Baby, to make sure her newborn is healthy and is eating and sleeping well through the first year5.

In addition to these apps, numerous others are scheduled for integration with CareKit in the near future, including an app for chronic conditions and one for patients recovering from surgery. Beyond those, the framework’s open source code, coupled with the large market for research and treatment presented by certain disease classes, clears a path for a multitude of other apps. Immunotherapy has been the target of monumental recent investments – will we see a CareKit-integrated app for cancer treatment? Alzheimer’s Disease continues to affect more and more people – is a health app focusing on neurological conditions on the horizon?

With ResearchKit, Apple made significant contributions to patient engagement in clinical trials. Now, with CareKit and the apps using it, those contributions are spreading beyond clinical research, empowering both patients and doctors across the healthcare landscape.

1 Buhr, Sarah; Apple starts deploying Carekit for health apps; Tech Crunch; 28 April 2016