"APPLE’S MOBILE DEVICES HAVE NOW ENTERED THE ARENA OF MEDICAL DIAGNOSTICS AND RESEARCH — YET ONE MORE NEW DIRECTION FOR APPLE THAT WILL LIKELY HAVE REVOLUTIONARY CONSEQUENCES IN OUR LIVES."
The University of Rochester and Sage Bionetworks developed mPower to help researchers understand Parkinson's. It uses the iPhone to precisely measure data such as manual dexterity, balance, memory, and gait. Within days of the announcement, over 8,000 people downloaded the app and joined the study. That level of participation would otherwise be impossible or hugely expensive and time consuming, but with the iPhone and mPower app, it's virtually free. Researchers say that mPower will help speed up the discovery of medical and biological knowledge about Parkinson's.
The app includes diagnostic tests, such as a tap test that assesses hand tremors. There's also a vocal test that uses the iPhone's microphone to detect minute vocal-cord vibrations. A walk test measures the person's gait and balance using the iPhone's accelerometer and gyroscope. The app also automatically pulls in activity data. Research has shown that exercise can slow the progress of Parkinson's and improve balance and coordination.
Of course, this new approach isn't without issues. For instance, participants in ResearchKit studies are self-selected and therefore unlikely to be representative of the entire population. There's also currently no way to verify that a participant actually has the disease in question. Still, ResearchKit's power comes from its potential to easily recruit participants and gather accurate data from sensors. And hopefully, these other issues will be worked out over time.