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Apple's HealthKit powering ambitious new medical trials at Stanford, Duke

Apple's new HealthKit tools in iOS 8 are the centerpiece of two separate medical trials about to kick off at prominent U.S. hospitals, aiming to help in treatment of diabetes, cancer and heart disease.

HealthKit will power new healthcare related programs set to go into medical trials at Stanford Children's Health and Duke University, as detailed by Reuters on Monday. The pilot programs, scheduled to launch in the coming weeks, aim to "improve the accuracy and speed of reporting data," replacing legacy systems done by phone and even fax machine, the report said.

The systems would allow patients to track their trends at home, making it easier to monitor potentially vital information.

For example, if a patient has hypertension, they might be required to take blood pressure medication on a daily basis and also track their daily blood pressure measurements. This information is typically written down and brought in to their doctor upon the next visit, but Apple's HealthKit would make it possible to automate that data collection and submission.

At the Stanford trial, patients with Type 1 diabetes will be given an iPod touch to help monitor blood sugar levels. Medical device makers are also taking part in the trials, with DexCom's blood sugar monitoring equipment specifically mentioned in the report.

The DexCom device relies on a sensor inserted under the skin of a patient's abdomen, which transmits data every five minutes to handheld receiver. That receiver measures blood glucose levels, and sends the information to a mobile application that can be installed on an iPhone or iPad, tapping into the HealthKit tools found in Apple's iOS 8 mobile operating system.

The report also revealed that Apple is apparently considering a "HealthKit Certification" requirement for third-party developers. This would allow the company to help ensure privacy of user data, specifically requiring that data be securely stored and not sold to advertisers.

Last month, Apple outlined restrictions for HealthKit, specifically preventing developers from selling or otherwise distributing sensitive data collected by its iOS 8 application programming interface. Apple specifically states that developers may "not sell an end-user's health information collected through the HealthKit API to advertising platforms, data brokers or information resellers," and are also barred from using gathered data "for any purpose other than providing health and/or fitness services."

Apple is believed to have ambitious plans for its new HealthKit tools, and is said to have been in talks with a number of major healthcare providers to help facilitate use of its new health-related platform. The tools currently available to developers will become accessible on tens of millions of devices this Wednesday, when iOS 8 launches for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.