Medical research is still usually made by giving the respondents a pile of papers to fill in with numerous questions and hassle. The electronic surveys are the alternative to the papers, but these two options are not the best way to do it.

Apple created a simple method to help the medical research. ResearchKit is an open source framework that allows developers create new apps for medical research. These apps are meant to enrol patients that are willing to participate in the medical research studies.

The apps built using ResearchKit can be used by patients all around the world, contributing to a better result of the research. Developers already made apps that help researchers to understand in a more practical way affections like Diabetes, Cancer, Asthma and even Parkinson and to better understand the health condition of the patients.

ResearchKit only provides the framework to collect data, but it doesn’t provide a way to upload it to your server, so you need to manage it by yourself. More, ResearchKit only works with HealthKit, so it is easier for the researcher to collect information about measurable fitness exercises like heart rate, speed or steps count.

The ResearchKit framework provides three core modules:

  1. The survey engine: advises the users to answer the questions;
  2. The visual consent flow: a simple mechanism asking for participant’s consent;
  3. The active tasks: it teaches the participants to accomplish a specific task.


  1. The Survey Engine

The survey is usually a set of questions researchers use to collect data from the participants. In ResearchKit, there are two ways of survey tasks: one where the order steps remain the same and another one where the order of the steps changes, depending on the answers of the user.

  1. The Visual Consent Flow

Researchers usually submit the documentation of the research study. When the medical research has people as the subject of the study, the information can be sensitive and must be reviewed by the participant. Therefore, you need to make sure the consent you obtain is legal. With ResearchKit, you can even obtain the participant’s signature.

  1. The Active Tasks

The main purpose of the ResearchKit framework is to collect data from the device’s sensors when the participant is performing different tasks. The active tasks are used to ask the user to perform certain activities using iPhone’s sensors like accelerometer, gyroscope, microphone or touchscreen. For example, you can ask the user to touch on a certain object you show on the screen and the app will collect the data. The ResearchKit framework includes a number of predefined active tasks such as testing the tapping speed of the user or his or her spatial memory.


Credit – Photographer: Negative Space