A Better Way for Medical App Development? Apple’s CareKit Explained
Apple recently announced the release of CareKit – a development framework which helps developers build health and medical related apps. CareKit takes care of a lot of the “heavy lifting” for app developers, and should make health and medical app development faster and easier. With CareKit, app developers can create apps that allow users to track their symptoms, their medicine intake or their activity/exercise, and then share the information with their medical team, family or friends.
What is CareKit?
CareKit is a development framework or “kit”, which provides a series of tools to assist developers in building apps aimed at helping people to manage medical conditions using their devices.
CareKit has a wide range of potential uses: from managing chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, to recovery from injury or surgery, or to achieving health and wellness related goals.
Activities can be tracked using sensors in the Apple Watch or the iPhone, including the accelerometer and gyroscope.
One example Apple offers is an upcoming app called EpiWatch. EpiWatch allows the user to send a notification to a friend of relative when a seizure is imminent. Another called Start helps people taking antidepressants to establish whether their medication is helping with their condition.
What Can I Do With CareKit?
Apple has made CareKit open source, meaning it has provided access to core components of CareKit code to app developers. As a result, developers can now more quickly create apps that allow users to do things like:
- Monitor their progress through medical treatment plans.
- Collect health and activity data via device sensors and from users themselves.
- View and analyse data in graphs, bar charts or other graphical representations.
- Share information with Doctors or family by creating PDF’s that can be shared via e-mail.
The CareKit Modules
CareKit consists of 4 core modules:
- Care Card
Tracks an individual’s care plan and ‘action items’ – things/tasks they’re expected to perform as part of their treatment, such as taking medicine, physical exercise or changing a wound dressing.
- Symptom and Measurement Tracker
This module records symptoms that help evaluate the effectiveness of the user’s care plan. Symptoms can be assessed subjectively or objectively.
Subjective assessments ask the user to provide the evaluation themselves. Subjective assessments include things like pain surveys, mood surveys, or quality of life surveys.
Objective assessments rely on data generated by hardware devices, such as heart rate from the Apple Watch or daily step counts from the iPhone motion sensor, or external devices such as a blood pressure monitor.
Insight Dashboard, takes the data from CareCard and the Symptom and Measurement Tracker and combines it to help users judge if treatments are working.
It allows developers to create charts or graphs to show a user’s progress towards their treatment goals. Tips and alerts that help the user stay on track with their health goals can also be added.
For example, using the Insights module, a developer could create a bar chart that compared the number of times the user took their pain medication with the results from their daily pain survey.
The Connect scene helps the user communicate their health status and Insights data with Doctors, friends or family. Results from the Insights module can be converted to PDFs and emailed.
Examples of CareKit Apps
Prior to the public release of CareKit, Apple announced a collaboration with 4 developers to showcase what CareKit can do.
OneDrop is a Diabetes Care app, allowing users to: “track your pain, hunger and dizziness against measurements such as your glucose levels”.
Start, by Iodine, is an app designed for depression medication management.
Users can take a depression test, track their progress and side effects. Iodine claims Start helps users decide if their new antidepressant works for them.
Glow Baby is a pregnancy app, and changes have been made to the app to integrate certain aspects of CareKit. For example, Glow blogged recently that “new smart notifications will indicate when health updates are significant enough that they should be shared with others. For example if a parent records a high temperature for their baby, they will be directed to the Care Team page from which they can notify doctors”.
How Do I Start Using CareKit?
If you have an idea for a healthcare app and are looking for a developer, please get in touch with us.
By making CareKit open source, Apple is encouraging developers to produce apps that take advantage of CareKit capabilities. CareKit certainly makes it easier for developers and healthcare professionals to create these type of apps as CareKit has done much of the “heavy lifting” for developers. There is plenty of scope for developers to produce apps that integrate with a wide range of hardware devices to capture data, or to provide apps to help users record a multitude of diseases or conditions.
If you have an idea for a healthcare app and are looking for a developer, please get in touch.