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What is CareKit: Complete guide to Apple's medical app framework

David Price | May 10, 2016
Here's what CareKit is, what it means for both app developers and iPhone and Apple Watch owners, and why it matters

Announced near the start of Apple's 'Let us loop you in' March press event, CareKit is a new software framework that's designed to help app developers build software focused on medical care. Based on this framework we can expect new software for the iPhone and Apple Watch that enables patients to monitor ongoing medical conditions, track medicine intake and exercise, and share the data with their doctors.

Complete guide to CareKit: What does CareKit mean for users?

At first, not much. The clue is the suffix 'Kit': like Apple's HealthKit, CarKit, HomeKit and ResearchKit (and numerous others with similar names), CareKit is a platform that app developers will use to build new offerings rather than a product in itself. ('Kit' is a abbreviation of software developer kit, or SDK, which is what frameworks like this are called more generally.)

As a member of the public and a user of Apple's products, you won't 'use' CareKit in the usual sense - but in the near future those with specific medical or care needs may well find themselves using third-party software designed using it.

What is CareKit: New CareKit apps

CareKit makes it much simpler for developers to create apps that track medical care. Activities can be tracked using sensors in the Apple Watch or the iPhone, including the accelerometer and gyroscope. Data can be shared across multiple CareKit apps or with doctors or relatives.

One example Apple offers is an upcoming app called EpiWatch, which allows you to send a notification to a friend of relative when a seizure is imminent; another called Start, by Iodine, helps people taking antidepressants to establish whether their medication is producing the desired results. But the possibilities are limited only by the imagination of developers, which is one of Apple's strong suits.

You can read about some of the CareKit apps currently being developed on Apple's website.

Aside from the benefits of the apps and the ability they give you to monitor and measure the progress of your medical care, there is a potential wider benefit: if health organisations are able to gain access to the data shared from CareKit apps, this holds enormous research benefits. It's conceivable that the potentially rich data source represented by the iPhone's huge install base will speed up the development of medical treatments, although data privacy is a factor to consider here (which we do, in the next section).

"We're thrilled with the profound impact ResearchKit has already had on the pace and scale of conducting medical research, and have realised that many of the same principles could help with individual care," said Apple chief operating officer Jeff Williams, in a press release.


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