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How Mobile Apps Are Transforming Medical Research like Never Before

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Modern day technology has evolved into something that past generations only dreamed of. Mobile cell phones, iPads, hoverboards, and programs like Skype and Siri are just a few technological gadgets that have beneficially revolutionize the way we commute, live, and breathe.

Our world is constantly changing and the technology we use is improving with every step along the way. In past generations, using a map to find where you needed to go was a normal thing. Now, we all have the convenience of having navigation systems with step by step directions on our mobile phones.

When you need a new recipe, where is the first place you think to check—YouTube, Google, Pinterest, Buzzfeed? These websites have dominated the Internet, but so has Apple. Apple’s latest introduction of the ResearchKit and CareKit has opened a huge window in transforming the way medical research is gathered. And, this is only the beginning.

What Is ResearchKit? CareKit?

According to Apple, the ResearchKit is “a software framework for apps that let medical researchers gather robust and meaningful data”. Meanwhile, CareKit is “a software framework for apps that let you better understand and manage your medical conditions.”

Long story short, both of these software programs will change lives forever. And, collecting data from participants helps researchers get more information about certain diseases and health conditions. Naturally, acquiring more recruits to join research studies is crucial in finding better treatments for certain health issues. Finding these recruitments used to be one of the hardest things for researchers to accumulate—sending out letters, flyers, and emails were just not grabbing enough participants.

Apple’s ResearchKit and CareKit are dramatically making this process easier by letting participants find the case studies. This leaves more time for researchers to focus on patients, their health conditions, and finding the best treatments for their personal needs—sounds like a win-win in my book. The convenience of having bigger study groups and more frequent data updates helps researchers get a more accurate representation of participants and provides more current information directly from the source—YOU!  

How Do Mobile Apps Benefit Medical Research?

We all know about Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook, however, those aren’t the mobile apps we’re referring to. Apps like Asthma Health, Sleep Health, and GlucoSuccess are just a few examples of the apps that will change the future of how we diagnose and treat health conditions.

When you normally have a health issue or get sick, you talk to a trusted doctor. These methods are still very effective, but (with the help of ResearchKit) they aren’t your only options nowadays.

But, what are these apps and how do they benefit medical research? Well, there’s a pretty simple explanation to this—almost everyone keeps their cell phone on them (or in nearby bag/purse) at all times, right? Well, can you say the same thing about your regular doctor? For most people, their normal health care provider isn’t at their every beck and call, 24 hours a day, so the convenience of using mobile health apps is just one of its many benefits. This is only the beginning of mobile research studies, so what helpful health apps are already on the market?

  • Asthma Health by Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

Having difficulties breathing can be terrifying for anyone—especially if you have asthma.  Being sensitive to weather changes, allergic reactions, and other forms of asthma triggers, people with asthma have to be very careful about what things make their condition better or worse.

This application’s goal is to lessen the severity of symptoms that patients experience with asthma and improve their daily lives. This app allows participants to record and track their symptoms, daily usage of inhalers, triggers, and any emergency or medical visits. This app also sends notifications for medication reminders and updates about the local air quality.  Learning the proper inhaler techniques and gaining tips from effective management videos is another bonus that this app provides.

  • Sleep Health by American Sleep Apnea Association

The amount of sleep you receive every night is crucial for your overall health, but you already knew that—right? When you fall asleep, you’re giving your brain and body time to rest and recharge for the next day. This app strives to help you take charge of your life, get better insight into your sleeping habits, record and track your daily activities and alertness levels, receive notifications and reminders, and gain knowledge about sleep health, sleep disorders, and their effects on our bodies.  Having an app that helps people get better sleep results (and even a better quality of life) is beneficial to any person that enjoys their beauty sleep.

  • GlucoSuccess by the Massachusetts General Hospital

In 2012, 29.1 million people in the United States were diagnosed with diabetes and 1.4 million new cases are diagnosed each year. Imagine how much easier it will be to prevent future cases when getting help is just a finger tap away? This app is focused on gathering more data on Pre-diabetes and Diabetes and how our health behaviors affect these health conditions.

GlucoSuccess allows you to track your daily activities, diet information, blood glucose measurements, body weight, and waist size. It also compares food and activities that affect your personal blood glucose levels to help you get better results.

  • PPD ACT by University of North Caroline at Chapel Hill

After giving birth, at least, one out of every eight mothers will experience postpartum depression (PPD). Researchers want more information on how to get the bottom of where PPD and postpartum disorders genetically come from and how to find the best treatments for people with this health condition. This app focuses on data collection and how to prevent this from happening to future mothers.

Fitness Apps and Trackers

Medical researchers have also realized that a great way to expand the reach of their research is to start utilizing different kinds of fitness trackers and apps that come with them. The main reason for this is that these are used by both healthy people and those who suffer from certain conditions. As a result, this provides them with better control groups and an overall larger research pools.

While these trackers and apps do have their limitations, they can provide very useful and actionable insights to researchers working on certain long-standing issues. For instance, data provided by a modern body measurement app can do wonders for researchers who are studying nutrition, blood pressure, post-operative recovery and so on. And this is just one example.
These are only a few apps that were recently released, this month to be exact, to help people benefit from convenient research studies and improve their daily lives. Technology is advancing a lot faster than we ever imagine it could, and boy is it exciting! Health apps created with the help of Apple’s ResearchKit has transformed the world of medical research like never before. Imagine the benefits these programs will have in 10, 20, and even 30 years? These apps have the power to truly impact your life, the life of your future children, and the lives of your future children’s children—only time will show how advanced this technology will really progress.

Nicole Noel

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