Just when you start to wonder whether Apple has run out of ways to come up with something completely different, they wow audiences with yet another groundbreaking idea. This time around it’s the new ResearchKit software platform that turns the iPhone into a diagnostic tool that can collect medical data from millions of potential customers.
The “pros” argue that the data from the Health app can be shared with doctors and scientists to use in medical research, from essential vital statistics (e.g. weight, heart rate, blood pressure, etc.) to information on conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, asthma and breast cancer. Looking at the specs, the app has all sorts of capabilities that other devices don’t necessarily monitor. And healthcare institutions are already loving the idea they can glean exponentially more valuable data from a significant population base, which will further research by leaps and bounds.
But with every innovation there are “cons” to consider, not the least of which is ever-present privacy concerns. It’s hard to discount the fact that some iPhone users may not be enamored with the idea that researchers can access sensors in their devices and possibly use the data in unintended ways. It appears that there is some work to be done in terms of protection under federal medical privacy laws (i.e. data shared with an app or wearable device is not typically protected). And of course, concerns about hackers and breaches are always an omnipresent concern. The question is whether these issues will hamper a person’s willingness to participate
Apple seems to have a talent for making something that seems intimidating on the surface work. So while media interest in ResearchKit has been considerable, time – and savvy messaging – will reveal if the privacy and security issues can be laid to rest.
What do you think? Is ResearchKit overstepping the privacy boundaries? Or will it be a game changer for medical research worldwide?
By Werner Sievers, CEO