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Our bodies, ourselves: How CareKit apps will revolutionise health care

Caitlin McGarry | March 28, 2016
The iPhone will bridge the gap between quantifying our health and actually doing something about it.

Apple took the wraps off the iPhone SE and 9.7-inch iPad Pro at its “Loop Me In” event on March 21, but the company’s most revelatory launch of the spring isn’t new hardware. It’s the open-source framework CareKit, which is poised to transform the future of health care.

If you’re anything like me, you go to the doctor for a check-up once a year. In the 364 days between visits, any number of things happen that we forget about—nothing medically major, but changes in exercise routine, diet, and stress levels that can be significant when taken as a whole. Maybe they just don’t seem important enough to mention to a doctor. But with the help of health-tracking iOS apps, we have all of that data at our fingertips. CareKit takes that information and makes it actionable, and, perhaps more importantly, shareable with your doctor.

The first wave of CareKit-integrated apps hits the App Store in April, each using the framework in different ways. Apple has developed four modules to start: A Care Card, which acts as kind of a health to-do list; a symptom and measurement tracker for reporting your data; an Insight Dashboard so you can see how the action items on the Care Card are affecting your health; and a Connect tab for sharing that data with anyone: your partner, your family, or your physician.

We confess more about our lives to our phones more than to our doctors, as New York Times columnist Jenna Wortham noted this week in an excellent piece. Phones don’t judge us. We enter embarrassing symptoms into an app that we might gloss over in a routine doctor’s appointment. With CareKit integration, the apps you trust with that private information will enable you to more easily track those symptoms, follow a self-care checklist, and if something is really problematic, help you involve a doctor. CareKit is empowering.

The first CareKit apps

The first app to hit the App Store with CareKit integration was mPower, a ResearchKit study on Parkinson’s disease from Sage Bionetworks and the University of Rochester. That app became the largest Parkinson’s study of all time in less than 24 hours when it launched last year.

But CareKit extends to apps across the health spectrum, not just medical research studies. Post-surgery care apps, home health care apps, and a diabetes-monitoring app are all on the way come April, each using CareKit in different ways. For instance, if you’re following a recovery plan on a Care Card in the Texas Medical Center surgery care app, your physician will be able to update that card with more action items without an office visit or even a phone call.

 

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