GSK Makes Apple’s ResearchKit Part of the Digital Transformation of Clinical Trials

As far as clinical trials have come adopting new technology, there are still areas where devices haven’t been able to make the research process faster or more efficient. Clinical trials still struggle to recruit participants in a speedy manner, and when patients are recruited, clinical investigators have difficulty collecting patient data. Technology giant Apple offered a way to address both of its problems when it unveiled its ResearchKit, a software platform that turns any iPhone into a powerful diagnostic tool that’s part of the digital transformation of clinical research. Now that tool has won over its first large pharmaceutical company. GlaxoSmithKline recently announced it would use the ResearchKit as part of its data gathering efforts in a rheumatoid arthritis clinical trial.

In the three-month trial, GSK will use the sensors on the iPhone to track rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, such as joint pain and stiffness, Bloomberg News explains. GSK used ResearchKit to design an app that will guide the 300 patients in the trial through a series of exercises, which will standardize the measurement across all patients. Patients will also be instructed to enter information into the app regarding their physical and emotional feelings.

GSK’s rheumatoid arthritis trial won’t be studying any new medications or therapy, according to Popular Science. The goal of the trial is to evaluate the technology itself. If ResearchKit turns out to be effective, it could spur GSK and others to incorporate the technology in the data collection practices of a full-fledged clinical trial. The Apple software has already demonstrated its promise in speeding up clinical trial enrollment. Quartz notes a Stanford University research study that was able to draw 11,000 participants within 24 hours, notable because studies of that size can take as long as a year to recruit. But that speedy recruitment can also be a drawback. Popular Science points out that participation in these studies requires ownership, or at least access to, an iPhone. That requirement could skew the recruitment toward certain demographics over others – a problem because clinical trials are intended to be as representative of the patient population as possible.

But GSK is certainly aware of ResearchKit’s potential to speed up trial recruitment, among other advantages. Rob DiCicco, head of GSK’s clinical innovation and digital platforms group, tells Bloomberg that the technology also saves on the expenses of maintaining clinical trials sites and having doctors and nurses collecting patient data for the study. There is no one technology that will solve all of the hurdles facing clinical trials. But Apple’s ResearchKit offers the prospect of bringing new technological capabilities into clinical trials in a way that is familiar to patients and simple for them to use.

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