Apple announces CareKit, an app toolkit for hospitals

By Jonah Comstock

At an event in Cupertino today, Apple announced that it would take its ResearchKit framework and spin off a new, similar offering called CareKit, an open source toolkit for hospitals and health systems. CareKit will launch with two applications: one for home monitoring of Parkinson's and one for post-surgical discharge.

"When we introduced ResearchKit, our goal was to improve medical research and we thought our work was largely done," Apple COO Jeff Williams said. "But what became clear to us later was the very same things that advance research can be used to help people with their care."

He went on to say that the same tap test built into the mPower ResearchKit app for Parkinson's patients can be used in their care to provide doctors with realtime data on how a patient's medication is affecting their symptoms. 

"Today, neither the individual nor the caregiver has this information," Williams said. "And we think empowering people with data about their health is incredibly important. So today we’re launching CareKit. CareKit is a framework to build apps that empower people to take a more active role in their care. And the very first CareKit app being released today is for Parkinson’s. And it surfaces some of that valuable information so people can start understanding better what affects their health."

The University of Rochester Medical Center, UCSF, Parkinson's Disease Care New York, Stanford Medicine, Johns Hopkins Medicine, and Emory Healthcare will all begin using the CareKit Parkinson's app. 

It's worth noting that one ResearchKit app, Asthma Health from LifeMap Solutions, already created a version for clinical care last December.

The second CareKit module announced today is being launched by Texas Medical Center, which conceived of it as a replacement for paper surgical discharge forms, a low-tech offering with notoriously poor adherence.

"So using the CareKit modules, we’ve been working with Texas Medical Center and they’ve created an app for the phone that guides you through this critical process in a completely different way," Williams said. "It’s got a Care Card, which is your list of things to do every day ... It’s got a symptom and measurement tracker where you can record information on your progress, you can record your temperature or you can use the accelerometer on the iPhone to study range of motion, and then you can share this information with your loved ones, who can help support you through this recovery process. And best of all you can share this information with your physician, who will take the results of what you’re doing and they will dynamically update your care plan so it changes on the fly, something just not possible with a sheet of paper."

Williams said CareKit will have the same data privacy protections as ResearchKit. It will be available in April.

Additionally, MobiHealthNews has learned that Iodine's mental health app Start will be one of the first to be integrated into the CareKit framework. 

“People want a way to connect their day to day experience to their doctor," Iodine Co-founder and CEO Thomas Goetz said in an emailed statement. "And doctors want a way to measure how their patients are doing, besides lab tests and blood work. The exciting thing about CareKit is that it offers a useful framework for making those connections happen. In our case, CareKit will help us deliver Start users’ depression treatment experience to their doctors, so they can take action and feel better, faster. CareKit could very well be the catalyst for this next phase of health care, one where our day to day experience is connected to our care, one where our doctors finally have a deeper and true understanding of our personal health.”   

At the event, Apple also announced that 2,500 apps now integrate with HealthKit. They also announced a new, lower price point for the Apple Watch at $299, which could lead to broader consumer adoption of the wearable. 

"It’s amazing that in such a short period of time, ResearchKit has had a profound impact on a broad area of medical research," Apple CEO Tim Cook said. "And our hope is that CareKit can have the same kind of impact on helping individuals manage their care."