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Apple Releases Its First CareKit Apps

Screencap of Glow Baby from the App Store

Apple has officially entered the health care market. The technology giant announced today that it has released its CareKit service, as well as the first apps made on it.

CareKit, an open source software platform, allow app developers build iOS apps that lets people manage their medical conditions and share information with their doctors. This move is a step forward for the company, as it gives Apple real involvement in health care, compared to research or simple tracking.

Among the four CareKit apps launched are Start, which enables users to track symptoms of depression, OneDrop that helps users manage diabetes, Glow Nurture, which focuses on pregnancy and Glow Baby, for infants in their first year.

CareKit is similar in design to HealthKit, which uses an iPhone’s sensors to gather data on a user’s health, and ResearchKit, which allows researchers to recruit participants for studies. CareKit surpasses previous apps that only keep track of a user’s overall health by focusing on monitoring specific symptoms and medical progress. And CareKit takes things a step further by allowing doctors to keep an eye on their patients from a distance.

Developers who want to use CareKit are given four modules to work with: administering a patient care plan, sharing health reports, measuring and tracking symptoms and checking on how effective treatments are working.

These modules can be mixed and matched to create apps for specific purposes, diseases and patients.

CareKit, while certainly a welcome addition, now faces a unique set of challenges. For example, the nature of this platform and its apps has raised concerns regarding security and private information. Apple has put an emphasis on quality control of CareKits on their App Store, with a set of guidelines that ban developers from sharing personal data and including a mandatory privacy policy on their apps. But CareKit is not limited to medical researchers or scientists with board approval. A teenager could potentially use the platform to make an app, again bringing up the issue of patient privacy.

In addition, hospitals and doctors alike tend to be skeptical of technology that takes time away from face-to-face patient interaction, and already have fears regarding medical liabilities. It will be interesting to see in the next few months if, and to what extent, CareKit’s impact will have on hospitals and physicians as a whole.

 

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