A Developer’s View: What does Apple’s CareKit mean for Patients?

The EarthWorks

It has been almost 2 years now since Apple first launched HealthKit for iOS. This can now be viewed as a major shift in the direction of Apple’s devices and software. Since then we have seen several improvements and developments within health including the launch of the Apple Watch with a number of sensors for tracking activity, ResearchKit enabling Universities and Pharma companies to conduct widespread medical research projects via iPhones and at the keynote this month we have seen the launch of CareKit.

CareKit sees a shift for the iPhone into being a truly personal medical and fitness device. Over the last 12 months ResearchKit has caused major waves in medical research and has had some amazing success with candidates. The shift from Apple into allowing this to be open source has seen the speed of feature development in ResearchKit accelerate over the year. On the back of this success CareKit has been built. Based on the same platform as ResearchKit and using the same Open Source model, Apple hope to see great success and provide real benefits to patients.

From its launch, CareKit will include 4 main areas that focus on the needs of patients:

  • Care Card provides a dashboard for patients to create and track their own care plans. Allowing them to track items such as therapy activities and medicine adherence as well as data automatically gathered from sensors in the iPhone and Watch.
  • Symptom and Measurement Tracker lets users easily record their symptoms and how they’re feeling, like monitoring temperature for possible infections or measuring pain or fatigue. Progress can be tracked using many of the existing features already available on the iPhone such as the sensors and camera for capturing progress of a condition.
  • Insight Dashboard maps symptoms against the action items in the Care Card to easily show how treatments are working. This will provide patients will visibility to how their health and treatments are progressing and give them real power to take ownership of their own healthcare.
  • Connect makes it easy for people to share information and communicate with doctors, care teams or family members about their health and any change in condition.

While HealthKit opened the door to using the iPhone as a personal health device by creating a central dashboard to integrate data from a whole range of 3rd party applications and ResearchKit provided a fantastic platform for medical research, CareKit is a genuine step forward for the patient as it provides them with a true oversight and opportunity to manage their own health. 

As developers we need to seize this opportunity to provide patients with apps that can make a real difference to their lives. Apple have taken huge strides in the last two years to move the app store away from being a source of 5 minutes of fun and novelty apps into a platform for users to manage every aspect of their lives and with their health at the centre of it. Apple are providing us with the tools, it is now down to the developers and the pharmaceutical industry to rise to this challenge and ensure apps are released that make a real difference to people’s lives.

Overall CareKit promises to further enhance the medical uses for the iPhone and broader iOS platform, and demonstrates Apple’s commitment to Health and medicine. This will provide plenty of exciting opportunities to create even better patient centric apps and provide genuine clinical interventions to end users.