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Apple CareKit Changing the Healthcare Game

July 10, 2016

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Apple’s recent CareKit release brings a new software development kit (SDK) to the company’s healthcare ecosystem that stands to transform the way we log, track and share medical information.

On the heels of the 2014 HealthKit release that allowed Apple users to integrate data from various health and fitness apps into the company’s Health app and the 2015 ResearchKit release that revolutionized the way medical researchers conduct studies, 2016’s CareKit release brings a new, open source framework for building health apps to medical insiders and outsiders alike.

CareKit extends four customizable interface modules to health app developers, including:

  • Care Card (to manage care tasks like medication adherence and other post-acute instruction
  • Symptom & Measurement Tracker (to monitor subjective and objective treatment results)
  • Insights (to visualize treatment progress as well as care cues and alerts)
  • Connect (to communicate health details to care team members in real time)

Cedars-Sinai’s heralded HomeHero app is just one example of how CareKit is playing a role in bringing much-needed change to the health market. The CareKit-connected app helps patients smoothly transition from inpatient to home settings through the use of non-medical home care providers and digital tools that share patient data with care teams in real time. The technology aims to help hospitals reduce readmission rates (and the CMS penalties they incur) while bridging the gap between acute care episodes and day-to-day living.

Like its ResearchKit predecessor, the CareKit framework lets the patient/end-user control which health data gets shared. That giant patient-led tech leap, partnered with iOS 10’s ability to let patients store EHR data in the Apple Health app using the HL7 Continuity of Care Document (CCD), is taking patient data access to new heights.

In an industry inundated with woes related to unifying disparate health data platforms, the ubiquity of mobile has always held promise for healthcare. Research shows that eighty-six percent of U.S. broadband households own a smartphone, and Apple holds forty percent of that smartphone market share. In addition to that, fifteen million Apple Watches are estimated to have been sold to date.

Given Apple’s plans to dial up monitoring technologies in the Apple Watch and iPhone (see “The Real Reason Apple Made the Apple Watch”) and the recent addition of Stephen Friend to Apple’s healthcare team, the company could soon be creating some of the most sophisticated mobile medical devices the world has seen.

Tech invasiveness and data privacy concerns are naturally still at play in the mHealth market, as are worries related to the loss of personal/human interaction. While it’s highly unlikely that HIT advancements will ever replace the patient/provider relationship, CareKit can definitely help clinicians extend patients the broader engagement opportunities they’ve been asking for.

With CareKit poised on the precipice of major health potential, hospitals and healthcare providers will be jumping in the app development game in droves. CareKit app enabled technology could soon quite literally be just what the doctor prescribed. What’s more, CareKit app users could now have a seamless, convenient path to better patient engagement beyond the walls of institutionalized care.