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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.

The challenge here is that physicians and other providers need to be ready and willing to go over these insights with patients. For apps developed by a healthcare provider, this is pretty much assumed. For mass-market apps, this may not be the case. There remains a debate in the healthcare community about the value of patient-generated data as well as concerns about being able to absorb and analyze large sets of data.

The brilliance of CareKit is that it is designed to ensure accuracy by relying on sensors and connected devices to record data and to make that data meaningful by correlating multiple sets of information, including subjective information like how a patient feels. This provides more useful information than multiple separate sets of raw data.

An overall challenge will be getting healthcare providers to actually use those insights beyond simply looking at the data itself. This may very well be an area where patients need to educate healthcare professionals about what CareKit is, the apps available related to their specific needs and the insights these apps can provide. Sharing the information from an app's Insight Dashboard during an office visit would be a very good starting point.

Why CareKit is revolutionary

One of the remarkable things about CareKit is that it provides a consistent, template-based approach to creating apps that eases the development process and offers users an extremely shallow learning curve -- figure out how to use one CareKit app, and you'll likely find others familiar and accessible.

Another is that the framework allows for immense versatility. Some of the apps already announced use the framework to track a wide range of health issues, from postsurgical care to depression (focusing on the effectiveness of various treatments), pregnancy, diabetes, Parkinson's Disease and other chronic conditions. It's hard to imagine any physical or mental healthcare issue that CareKit couldn't help monitor and manage.

A third important point is that CareKit, like HealthKit and ResearchKit, isn't limited to just patient responses to questions or reminders. It has access to the various sensors of an iPhone as well as connected devices and additional apps that are HealthKit-enabled. That provides a great range of objective data as well as subjective data. By being able to track and correlate this data over time, CareKit apps provide a unique living view of a person's health, progress and issues that impact a given condition.

Ultimately CareKit is one of the most revolutionary technologies introduced for the overall health ecosystem because it enables developers to connect so many sources of information and make sense of them. Broadly adopted, it will allow many people greater understanding of their unique health issues and needs, particularly those with chronic or difficult-to-treat conditions. It offers an accessible path to more personalized medicine by building on Apple's existing health initiatives and the work of a disparate range of developers, device makers and healthcare providers.


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