In addition to launching a set of shiny new watches and a razor-thin MacBook in the last couple of months Apple has also unveiled an open-source medical research framework called ResearchKit to go along with the HealthKit platform that it recently debuted.
Apple previously noted that the institutions it had already partnered with to create apps for medical research had undergone third party ethics reviews, but it was unclear if all apps would need to do this.
This week modified the Review Guidelines for any app wishing to leverage ResearchKit to get approved in the App Store.
The guidelines now include the requirement that any apps using ResearchKit for health-related human subject experiments be approved by an independent ethics review board, which is a standard industry practice.
This change is an attempt to ease some of the ethical concerns expressed over the mass collection of health data from iPhone users. There have been numerous questions since the framework was announced about how data would be collected. The guidelines already detail that permission from users must be obtained before collecting data, and that parents or guardians will need to approve this data collection for minors.
Doctors and healthcare professionals were excited by the cameras, infrared sensors and touchscreens included on first generation of smartphones as they could be very useful tools for medical research but lacked a formal framework from Apple to sue them as such.
The announcement of ResearchKit marks the beginning of seeing what those researchers can do with mobile technology. The detection, prevention and treatment of a great number of medical conditions will no doubt be simplified by the use of wearable and interactive mobile technology. Further, the crowdsourcing of data from mobile devices on a daily or even hourly basis will revolutionize the medical research field, as millions of people begin recording important diagnostic data in the coming years.
Researchers now have a framework with which to explore these possibilities and it will be exciting to see what comes of this as the platform and apps that make use of it develop.