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  • Apple's Research App Delivers Thousands of Participants to Researchers Overnight—Amid Some Concerns

    Less than 24 hours after its debut, Apple's ResearchKit health research app connected Parkinson disease researchers with more than 5,500 consenting subjects, while a cardiac research project registered double that number—all amid a trickle of doubts and concerns about the quality of data that might be generated via the open-source software.

    Articles in Bloomberg News, Modern Health Care, Engadget, and other sources report that organizers of the 5 research projects already created through ResearchKit were encouraged by the public's response to the new app, which turns iPhones into interactive monitoring devices and feeds data back to researchers.

    Bloomberg News quoted Alan Yeung, medical director of Stanford Cardiovascular Health and member of one of the teams using ResearchKit as saying that "to get 10,000 people enrolled in a medical study normally, it would take a year and 50 medical centers across the country." In the case of the Stanford study on cardiac health, that number was reached overnight.

    The excitement is not universal. Almost as soon as the product was unveiled, criticism began.

    In addition to reporting on excitement over the participant numbers being generated, recent stories cite some research experts' concerns about how representative the data will be, given that iPhone owners do not represent an accurate cross section of the general population.

    Other critics worry about how the app's inability to ask open-ended questions of participants could skew the results, and cite possible problems with participants allowing others to use their phones during the research.

    In the Modern Health Care article, Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center researcher Hardeep Singh voiced concern about how the sheer scale of data can have an impact. "Ultimately, it's about data quality and reliability," he said. "You can lose control in this virtual environment of big data."

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