Is This the Most Powerful Clinical Research Tool Ever Invented?

April 16, 2015
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iPhoneMuch has been written over the past few months about Apple ResearchKit and its potential to completely revolutionize R&D in the life sciences industry. The idea is simple. And it got me thinking: is the iPhone the most powerful clinical research tool ever invented?

 

iPhoneMuch has been written over the past few months about Apple ResearchKit and its potential to completely revolutionize R&D in the life sciences industry. The idea is simple. And it got me thinking: is the iPhone the most powerful clinical research tool ever invented?

Apple’s ResearchKit uses an open source technology framework to allow research institutions running clinical trials to design apps that tap into the iPhone’s many sensors to collect and send data. With ResearchKit, the iPhone becomes a clincial research tool that can measure vital signs, share patient-reported outcomes, and harvest information. The technology will enable people to opt in to clinical trials from anywhere in the world. The iPhone also then becomes a powerful diagnostic tool that will enable vital information to be shared with physicians, hospitals, health centers, and more. This is, in my opinion, a new frontier for mHealth; one that is both exciting and thought provoking at the same time. Apple ResearchKit has the potential to transform entire industries including outsourced clinical research, diagnostics and drug development. But it is very early days.

The good news is that ResearchKit launched in March with five apps that will allow people to participate in tests for Parkinson’s, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, asthma, and breast cancer.

The potential to reduce clinical research costs is enormous. Pharmaceutical R&D costs are a major challenge facing the industry today. Users will have control over how data is shared, and (according to what is being said so far), Apple will not have access to the data.

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There are a number of questions that need to be answered. Chief among them are the quality and the accuracy of the data. It may be that in the beginning, the majority of the research is behavioral in nature, until issues of data quality and accuracy can be sorted out.

But make no mistake, I believe that ResearchKit, or something like it, will enter widespread use within the next few years. The inevitability of this technology means that it is here to stay. It is the logical convergence of wireless technology, cloud technology, the increasing sophistication of app development, and increasingly more powerful and capable hand held devices. And when you factor in the $2.6 billion average cost of bringing a drug to market (much of that related to clinical research costs), this technology becomes essential.

Plus, I wouldn’t bet against Apple.