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Asthma study using Apple's ResearchKit proven accurate when compared to existing research

A study reports ResearchKit is an extremely effective way to conduct medical research, with patient data collected from asthma sufferers via Apple's framework found to correlate with the results of similar studies using established data collection methods.

Researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai analyzed data from the Asthma Mobile Health Study, a program launched in March 2015 at the same time as Apple introduced ResearchKit itself. Unlike others, this study relied on just a specially-created iPhone app called Asthma Health, co-developed with LifeMap Solutions, which provided users with regular surveys concerning their health.

The app was downloaded almost 50,000 times in the first six months since its launch, according to results published in journal Nature Biotechnology. Of these downloads, a total of 7,593 people completed the electronic informed consent process, allowing data to be collected and analyzed by the researchers.

Out of the people completing the enrollment process, approximately 85 percent of users completed at least one survey offered by the app, which is a promising start. Ultimately, only 2,317 users from the enrolled pool filled out multiple surveys throughout the six-month study, but this was still a sufficient enough sample size for analysis.

The data was compared to the results of other asthma patient studies, with researchers noting common metrics between the sets of results, such as peak flow. Scientists were also able to correlate data from patients with external factors, including air quality, which also appeared to match existing studies.

Changes to the level of pollen and heat could also be corroborated in the study, when taking into account the user's location and other device data. For example, researchers were able to correlate increased daily asthma symptoms in Washington State with a wildfire outbreak, with the two occurring at similar times.

Yvonne Chan, Director of Digital Health and Personalized Medicine for Genomics and Multiscale Biology at Mount Sinai advises the use of iPhones and ResearchKit is "particularly suitable for studies of short duration that require rapid enrollment across diverse geographical locations, frequent data collection, and real-time feedback to participants."

"Our study demonstrates the power of mobile health tools to scale and accelerate clinical research so that we can derive the evidence needed to inform clinical practice and improve patient care."

Eric Schadt, Professor of Genomics at the Icahn School of Medicine and Founding Director of the Icahn Institute for Genomics and Multiscale Biology claims "We now have the ability to capture rich research data from thousands of individuals to better characterize 'real world' patterns of disease, wellness, and behavior. This approach provides a more comprehensive and accurate view of our patients that was not feasible in the past due to logistical limitations and prohibitive costs."

The study's results are likely to bolster ResearchKit's credibility as a framework for medical research, one that is already being used in a number of different projects. One recent study used the Apple Watch and ResearchKit to analyze seizure triggers in epilepsy sufferers, recording biometric data and prompting users to respond for reflex and awareness testing during each seizure event.