Apple Targets Clinical Research With Second Foray Into Healthcare

This blog post was written by Jenni Bendfeldt, Manager, and Dan Harrison, Senior Manager.

Apple has a way of introducing products that transform entire industries and make consumers wonder how they ever got by beforehand (when’s the last time you carried around a bunch of CDs?). So when the largest tech company in the world announced in 2014 that it was getting into healthcare, industry professionals wondered whether Apple’s HealthKit was capable of achieving iPhone-like appeal and utility in a notoriously complicated field.

Nearly 2 years later, the results are in – and they’re mixed. HealthKit has gained a solid user base among patients and a select few healthcare organizations interested in using the tool to support patient engagement and population health efforts. And the health app’s ability to aggregate data from multiple sources, send it to providers in a standard format, and integrate with commonly used EHRs reflects the same seamlessness and ease of use that have come to characterize Apple’s products. However, relatively few providers have actually altered the way they provide care in order to leverage this information. Absent the pressure of any government mandate to use patient-generated data, and with few reimbursement opportunities, providers have had little incentive to accommodate HealthKit’s functionality.

Apple’s second healthcare product, however, may offer certain providers a different kind of motivation.

ResearchKit is an open-source platform created for and marketed to clinical researchers. The framework offers predefined modules for developing surveys to evaluate potential research participants, consent documents to explain the study and obtain consent, and active tasks that use iPhone functionality to track movements, take measurements, and record data.

Unlike HealthKit, where the benefits of adoption may not interest all providers, the potential advantages of ResearchKit should be immediately clear to researchers. Put simply, ResearchKit can enable researchers to run studies remotely. The ability to conduct administrative tasks and gather the information needed for a study without geographical constraints removes an enormous barrier that traditional researchers face. The below table illustrates how ResearchKit’s technology stacks up against a composite of elements commonly found in a traditional clinical study.


Any clinical researcher looking at this comparison is bound to see opportunities for value. Consider the savings on administrative resources typically needed to schedule appointments and collect and analyze data. In some instances, it may not even be necessary to purchase clinical devices to conduct tests. Researchers no longer have to spend precious funding on recruiting and managing local study participants. Access to a global pool of participants and mobilized interactions can streamline studies even further.

Now that researchers can see what is possible, the challenge will be for healthcare business leaders to determine what is practical. We will be exploring these possibilities in a series of follow-up posts that examine the current funding environment, legal and operational risks, the approaches and barriers experienced by actual users, and our recommendations for success.

This entry was posted in AMC, Healthcare IT, Patient Access, Research and tagged , , , , , by Jennifer Bendfeldt. Bookmark the permalink.

About Jennifer Bendfeldt

Jennifer works in ECG’s Healthcare IT practice. With over 7 years of experience in the healthcare industry, she helps clients address operational, technical, and strategic issues associated with the implementation, utilization, and optimization of EHRs. Her expertise in-cludes team and project management, as well as needs assessments; work flow redesign; EHR incentive programs; and IT-driven improvements in clinic operations, the revenue cycle, and the quality of patient care. Prior to joining ECG, Jennifer started out her career working as a Nutritionist at the Nebraska Heart Institute in Lincoln, Nebraska, before taking on a healthcare administration internship and later becoming an EHR Analyst at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts. Jennifer has a bachelor of science degree in nutrition science/dietetics, with a minor in psychology, from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a master of healthcare administration degree from the Sawyer Business School at Suffolk University.

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