Performing large-scale medical studies has never been easy. Getting people to provide informed consent, respond to surveys, or (even worse) show up for testing has often led to high rates of attrition, unreliable information, or both.
So it was intriguing to hear that Apple had decided to try to help out in this area. Smartphones have a number of significant advantages: people use them already, users already accept that phones can gather information on everything from our location to our fingerprints, and it’s possible to develop sophisticated software that runs on the devices. The problem has been that medical researchers’ software talents tend to lie in building statistical models, not sophisticated user-facing software.
ResearchKit had the potential to make a decent GUI much more manageable. But Apple hadn’t even revealed what was in the framework, so it was difficult to tell how much easier it would be—or even what problems it attempted to solve. Now that it’s possible to take a look, it’s obvious that Apple has created a simple programming paradigm that works in a number of contexts, one that takes the need to build a GUI almost entirely out of the developer’s hands.
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