Just a few days ago, Apple officially announced one of its new features, intended to be an extension of its previously announced medically related software, Apple HealthKit. This new system, called ResearchKit, is intended to assist in the development of research oriented tools that will work seamlessly on an iPhone. In order for this software to be maximally used and applied in other solutions, Apple has made it open source. This basically means that the cost of implementing a solution using ResearchKit is far less than it would be, if the developers were using a commercial and costly set of software research tools.
In an article from two days ago on the website Apple Insider, it was noted that the number of participants in a Stanford university study, shot up to 10,000 overnight. To put things in perspective, it would usually take a year and 50 medical centers around the country to collect 10,000 people into a study. The exponential potential of this new software is evident.
Of course, there are always the naysayers, who admittedly have some valid points. Anyone who can afford an iPhone is distinct from a wide range of individuals who simply do not have the $600 to $1000 to purchase one of the latest iPhones. This ends up skewing the data coming from any iPhone-based study, effectively leaving out any one of middle to low income. Nevertheless, one cannot ignore the astounding potential in this kind of response from the general public. Also, there are very important medical studies that can be done, that are far less affected by the socioeconomic status of the users. Therefore, the data collected via ResearchKit-based solutions still has great value.
I have mentioned this before, that at the moment, no other company can compete with the complete line of solutions that Apple is providing in the healthcare space. If Apple continues to invest in strategic partnerships with large healthcare institutions, it could easily be that within a couple of years, Apple will be the only company able to centralize information from every major EMR and secure it, package it and deliver it to anyone’s mobile phone or Apple Watch. If ResearchKit is well integrated into this process, users could be able to participate in important research with nothing more than a click of a button. As a physician myself who has been involved in clinical trials in the past, I cannot overemphasize the significance of this package of Apple services.
I keep saying that I am not inherently an Apple fan. I say this because I do not want my comments to be construed as false praise for a potentially flawed system. When I speak positively of Apple, I mean it !
The present version of Apple’s health solutions are not perfect but are not far from it. And this is all just version 1. By the time Apple has reached version 3 or 4, it will be very hard to ignore its critical and even essential contribution to health care, not only in the States but across the world.
My personal desire, to see Android and Microsoft effectively compete in this venue, is both selfish and practical. I use a Nexus 5 phone and I very much enjoy the quality of the Android operating system. In practical terms, a Nexus phone costs half as much as an iPhone. I personally have never liked the iPhone interface and I have also not liked the desktop software that Apple sells. But ultimately, to fully benefit from the Apple experience, all products being used should be themselves from Apple. I am definitely not interested in switching my desktop from Windows to OS Yosemite. So, I am taking a deep breath and hoping that both Microsoft and Google have realized how quickly they must come up with parallel solutions to those being offered by Apple.
I wish to note once again that Apple is investing appropriately and heavily in linking its software to the major players in the American healthcare cyber environment. Either Microsoft or Google or both will have to make similar types of investments and develop similar types of cooperation with the top medical software players.
It could even be that Microsoft or Google will have to invest in medical fields that they never before took part in (in order to compete with Apple from a different angle). One of the top areas of development in medical software has to do with the management, viewing, transfer and archiving of all forms of digital films and media. It might be that Microsoft or Google will have to invest in this field and develop expert products for this field in order to compete with Apple’s existing partnerships with the major electronic medical record companies. If Microsoft or Google can make digital media far easier to manipulate within a medical environment, this would also be transformative.
In the long run, these kinds of products and (hopefully) competition amongst the major development houses, will be to the betterment of the general public. Hopefully within five years, the hardware costs of being connected to all of these various medical services will be a fraction of what they are today. Perhaps a company like Pebble, with its very attractive smart watch product, will succeed in making the necessary alliances to seriously challenge Apple. Considering the high quality and low cost of Pebble’s products, Pebble could be a serious challenger that does offer both Android and eventually even Windows systems, the smart watch connection that they need.
I mentioned a couple of days ago that Apple has managed to mark the beginning of a revolution in watch-based computing. This field includes the entire array of sensor-based data collection, as well as cloud-based data centralization, for the purpose of constant analysis and health assessment. This field is progressing so quickly, that anyone coming late to the party will probably not be able to catch up. I truly hope that Android and Microsoft will pick up the ball and begin to run as fast as possible. If not, Apple will effectively have a monopoly on the entire medical software field, especially from a users’ point of view. I think this would be bad for the market.
Time will tell how all of this will play out. But I definitely tip my hat to Apple for having burst through the doors of innovation and for making people understand how this new world of computing is far more than a toy. As the rule goes, “first a technology is a luxury, then it becomes a convenience, until it becomes a necessity”. Apple, and hopefully other major companies, are working hard to make this kind of software a necessity, and then practically universal in availability.
Thanks for listening