ResearchKit on stage at HIMSS Connected Health Conference

From the mHealthNews archive
By Eric Wicklund

One of the highlights at last year's mHealth Summit was a standing-room-only session on Apple's newly unveiled HealthKit. For an all-too-short 35 minutes, attendees peppered representatives of Ochsner Health and Duke Medicine with questions about how this innovative new app platform would help clinicians and patients collaborate on healthcare.

While cautioning that it was still early to form any conclusions, Ricky Bloomfield, MD, director of mobile technology strategy and an assistant professor of internal medicine-pediatrics at Duke Medicine in Cary, N.C., predicted good things for the platform.

[Learn more about the 2015 mHealth Summit.]

Bloomfield is coming back to this year's conference with an update on the Apple arsenal, which now includes ResearchKit, the enterprise-facing platform unwrapped by Apple in March and designed to enable providers and other groups to create their own app programs. Bloomfield told mHealth News he'll be discussing how Duke Medicine participated in a "groundbreaking" study to create its own app on the ResearchKit platform.

Over the past year, HealthKit and ResearchKit have been incorporated into the clinical curricula at dozens, if not hundreds, of health systems around the world. Physicians and researchers are using the platforms to connect with consumers through their iPhones and iPads, collecting information they'd never get in the hospital, clinic or doctor's office. And while questions persist as to how clinicians might be able to use this data and whether it's reliable, people like Bloomfield see this as an important step in the evolution of healthcare.

"As a physician, I'm intimately familiar with the limitations of clinic visits to assess patient health," Bloomfield said in an mHealth masters Q&A this past April. "A patient with a reasonably controlled chronic medical condition such as congestive heart failure may have a 15-minute clinic visit once every 1-3 months. The measurements taken at that visit will form the basis for that physician's medical decision making until the next visit. However, even that chronically ill patient will spend more than 99 percent of his or her life outside the medical setting. Understanding what happens in that other 99 percent will allow us to make better decisions sooner. Improvements in wearable technology and the software to facilitate gathering that patient-generated data will change how we practice medicine."

Duke obviously isn't the only organization working with ResearchKit. Ochsner has linked HealthKit with its Epic EHR, researchers at the University of California San Francisco are currently using it to collect information on health issues faced by gays, lesbians and transgenders, and Stanford University recently revaled plans to extend their app's reach to the United Kingdom and Hong Kong. 

"We are reinventing how healthcare is delivered and our new custom MyHealth app is an important milestone in our efforts," Amir Dan Rubin, Stanford Health Care's president and CEO, said in an August statement. "We provide care for some of the most technologically sophisticated patients in the country, whose lives revolve around innovation. After carefully evaluating all of the available mobile technologies, we recognized that to meet the needs and expectations of our patients we had to develop our own solution that worked seamlessly with our existing electronic health record system."

Likewise, HealthKit is being put into use in healthcare systems large and small, as well as research organizations and payers.

Bloomfield said the next step will be to integrate relevant data coming in through the ResearchKit and HealthKit platforms with clinical analytics tools and, ultimately, the electronic medical record.

He'll give an update on that process, and offer advice for others thinking about starting that journey, at this year's mHealth Summit within the HIMSS Connected Health Conference.