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Apple's healthy CareKit revolution

Ryan Faas | April 18, 2016
The CareKit framework enables developers and doctors to collect copious amounts of data -- and make sense of it all.

These apps will prove to be immensely valuable to users and clinicians because they will be tailored to a provider's processes, specialties and the needs of patients. And healthcare interactions will be richer and more useful because the apps are more tailored to specific needs based on patient conditions or the specialties of the providers.

They will, however, have a narrower focus because the data and interactions will be centered around specific health issues. Sharing data with other providers (such as a primary care physician) may not be as easy as with the hospital-based care team or specialty practice. The audience for these apps will also be limited to the patients of a specific provider.

Apps developed for more general use will obviously have a broader audience since they're designed for a mass market, available to anyone that needs or wants to track a given condition. This makes them more accessible, but it also means that more user setup will be needed to customize the app for specific needs and treatment plans. There will likely also be less direct interaction with a provider or care team, meaning it will be up to users to get more involved in their own care. That could involve simply printing out the data generated by an app; some existing health-tracking apps that are planning to integrate CareKit already rely on this method for sharing data.

This won't make these apps any less useful. In fact, broad availability could be an advantage since individual medical practices or doctors in smaller healthcare groups will be able to suggest apps to a range of patients and may even be able to walk them through initial setup during an office visit. The mass market could also allow apps to be tailored tightly to specific conditions, particularly rarer ones, than provider-generated apps.

Obviously, broad availability also means that individuals will be able to select and use the apps without input from any healthcare provider while still offering useful data and insights that can be shared as needed (and with any/all healthcare professionals rather than just a subset). That process, however, will likely be less automated and directed more by the user than by a physician or care team.

CareKit's challenge -- making use of the data

Without a doubt, CareKit provides a lot of insight into a user's health and conditions, particularly those that are chronic or progressive. It offers a simple way to take a wide swath of information from a variety of sources, correlate it and present it in easy-to-digest formats. In short, it makes all this data meaningful. The trick is making it actionable. That's where the ability to share data and discuss it with clinicians is key.


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