Mount Sinai publishes findings from its ResearchKit-based asthma study

Mount Sinai has published its Asthma Mobile Health Study, its first large-scale clinical observational study to utilize ResearchKit, Apple's framework for conducting medical studies using an iPhone. The study, published in Nature Biotechnology, collected data from 7,593 participants.

The study compared its data with that of existing studies to make sure the self-reported data was reliable.

The study included regular surveys to understand how asthma patients were affected by and treating their condition over time. A total of 7,593 people completed the electronic informed consent process and enrolled in the study. Eighty-five percent of them completed at least one survey, with a core group of 2,317 robust users who filled out multiple surveys during the course of the six-month study. Results were compared to existing asthma patient studies and to external factors as a control for the reliability of patient-reported data. For example, scientists were able to correlate increased daily asthma symptoms among participants in Washington State with an outbreak of wildfires at the time. Similar factors that could be corroborated in the patient data included pollen levels and heat. Data for commonly used asthma metrics, such as peak flow, matched what has been observed in other studies.

Researchers have found that mobile studies like this is best suited for short-term studies that need data from different geographical regions. Smartphone-based studies also allow for increased data collection and rapid feedback from researchers to those taking part in the study.

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While this study has provided some important data for researchers, concerns remain.

Potential challenges with this technology include selection bias, low retention rates, reporting bias, and data security. These issues require attention to realize the full potential of mobile platforms to advance research and patient care.

ResearchKit was first introduced in early 2015 as a way to involve a greater number of people in medical research, offering the potential for greatly-increased sample sizes from more diverse groups of people. Apple partnered with a number of institutions to bring apps built with ResearchKit to the App Store, including Mount Sinai with its Asthma Study.