Canadian Journal of Nursing Informatics


This article was written on 05 Apr 2019, and is filled under Volume 14 2019, Volume 14 No 1 - 2.

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Apple ResearchKit and CareKit

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Software Column

by Allen McLean, RN, MN, MSc, PhD(c)

Allen is currently a PhD student in Health Sciences at the University of Saskatchewan (Saskatoon) in the Computational Epidemiology and Public Health Informatics Lab. His research interests include the development of computer modeling and simulation software for addressing health systems challenges, chronic diseases and health inequities at the population level, as well as mobile technologies applied in long-term care facilities. Allen previously attended the University of Victoria earning an MN and MSc (Health Information Science) in a unique dual degree program for Nursing Informatics professionals. Allen has over 20 years’ experience in healthcare as an ultrasound technologist, clinical educator, team leader and community health RN.



A few columns back I introduced readers to several tools from Google that are useful in nursing and health research. In this brief holiday column, I would like to describe similar tools from Apple [1]. ResearchKit is a software framework for developing apps that let medical researchers gather robust and meaningful data from individuals. CareKit is a software framework for developing apps that let individuals better follow, understand, and manage their medical conditions. Importantly, both ResearchKit and CareKit are open-source frameworks, with plenty of support [2], and integrate with the HealthKit practice management software [3].


ResearchKit has been used globally to study health problems such as Parkinson’s disease, autism, seizures, concussion, melanoma, postpartum depression, and sleep health – to name only a few [1]. ResearchKit allows researchers a simple platform for enrolling participants in a study by using an iPhone or other iOS device. Participants complete tasks, fill out questionnaires, and perform activities recorded by sensors. This data is often more timely and accurate than data collected by traditional methods.

The ResearchKit framework offers core modules that include a survey engine, visual consent flow, and active tasks. The framework can be used with Swift and Objective-C, and Apple provides support for API integration. The ResearchKit framework is essentially a set of steps that can be presented to a study participant.

1.     Build surveys for presentation on an iOS device.

2.     Use customizable visual consent templates to explain the details of your study, and obtain a signature from the participant.

3.     Use active tasks to invite users to perform activities under semi-controlled conditions – for example, using iPhone sensors to collect data.

The ResearchKit framework does not include a data management solution. However, the framework can be used with a data management solution of your choice.


CareKit is a software development tool for nursing professionals interested in building apps that assist individuals with self-care and management. In a time where more and more responsibility for care is shifting toward the patient, it is hoped these apps can improve outcomes. Apps have been built that track symptoms and medications, and then share that information with the care team. Examples include diabetes management and cardiac care.

Best wishes for 2019!


1] Apple ResearchKit and CareKit. (2018) Retrieved from

[2] ResearchKit. (2018). Retrieved from

[3] HealthKit. (2018). Retrieved from

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