“To get 10,000 people enrolled in a medical study normally, it would take a year and 50 medical centers around the country,” said Alan Yeung, medical director of Stanford Cardiovascular Health. “That’s the power of the phone.”
ResearchKit enables doctors and scientists to gather more data frequently and more accurately from participants using iPhone apps. Researchers have already developed apps to help gather data for asthma, breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease. With ResearchKit, the users decide if they want to participate in a study and how their data is shared.
There is some concern however that the data captured via ResearchKit may be less useful.
“Just collecting lots of information about people -- who may or may not have a particular disease, and may or may not represent the typical patient -- could just add noise and distraction,” said Lisa Schwartz, professor at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice. “Bias times a million is still bias.”
Things that could skew the findings include the tendency for iPhone users to be more educated, the possibility that a phone could be used by someone else, and the inability to ask open ended questions.
On the other hand, tracking things like exercise via the iPhone would lead to more accurate results. People have a tendency to lie when asked about their physical activity.
It's not just Stanford University's program that is seeing many signups. As of Tuesday morning, more than 2,500 people had enrolled and consented to participate in an asthma study, run by a team at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, working with digital health company LifeMap Solutions. A Parkinson's app created by the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research and Sage Bionetworks had 5,589 consenting users by Tuesday morning.
To learn more about ResearchKit and how you can participate, please click here.