Apple’s CareKit might make healthcare more accessible and cheaper

How to survive unpaid leaveThe newest innovation in healthcare may come from an unlikely source: the Apple Store. Apple’s CareKit is poised to bring the disruptive potential of mobile computing to your GP’s office.

CareKit is an open source platform that supports the creation of personal healthcare apps. CareKit leverages the success of ResearchKit, which connects patients with medical research, helping researchers collect real-time data on symptoms and treatment efficacy. ResearchKit isn’t even a year old, but it’s already had an impact. Apple announced on October 15th, six months into the platform’s launch, that 100,000 users were using the platform to participate in clinical trials. CareKit builds on this success by creating new tools for doctor-patient communication.

CareKit features four modules. “Care Card” helps patients track medication and completion of tasks such as physical therapy exercises. The “Symptoms and Measurement Tracker” lets users record symptoms and capture other data such as photographs of wounds or rashes, temperature, or data related to sleep. The “Insight Dashboard” compares symptom progression to the Care Card to track treatment efficacy. Finally, the “Connect” module will allow for doctor-patient communication including data transmission.

The biggest impact of CareKit will be in the areas of accessibility and affordability. Accessibility is built into CareKit: it allows for safe, secure transmission of patient data. Instead of waiting for a GP visit, a patient will be able to transmit their health data- for instance, an image of a wound. The data that can be transmitted through CareKit is only limited to the peripherals linked to the platform. Conceivably, brainwaves and other complex data could one day be sent to a physician with the press of a fingertip.

Use of CareKit may help patients adhere to medications, and be more pro-active about their health, making healthcare more affordable. Emerging research shows that physicians are increasingly willing to embrace mobile apps, which may have a long-term effect of reducing overheads and improving care. One third of physicians have recommend apps to patients to support the care that they provide. The supplementary benefits of the apps included connecting patients with support communities online to encourage taking ownership of care, offering caregivers information and assistance, and generating data for physicians who are monitoring patient’s conditions.

Forward-thinking medical insurance providers are also taking advantage of these advances. For example, AXA PPP healthcare is leading innovations in e-health with the ‘Doctor@Hand’ service that links patients to their physicians via video and phone.

As private medical insurance providers, physicians, and patients embrace the potential of CareKit, healthcare will no doubt become cheaper and more accessible- indeed, as close to hand as the phone in your pocket.

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