New ResearchKit app helps cancer patients cope with stress of diagnosis


ResearchKit is as useful for monitoring mental health as physical health.
Photo: Apple

Apple’s ResearchKit platform isn’t just about physical wellbeing, it’s also being used to help track mental health.

With that in mind, Duke Institute for Health Innovation has launched a new HomeKit-compatible app designed to help cancer patients, survivors, and their caregivers manage the stress accompanying a cancer diagnosis. The app is profiled on Apple’s official ResearchKit blog.

Called Cancer Distress Coach, the Duke app includes a variety of activities that can have a positive impact when it comes to combating the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These activities include guided imageries, meditation exercises, inspirational quotes, music, and photos.

As participants complete the activities, they app helps them to learn more about their “symptoms and available resources, better understand their levels of stress, build a network of support, and gain new skills to help manage stress in the moment.”

On the research front, the app seeks to gather responses from users on questions such as how much distress have they been experiencing in the past week, and how much have they had difficulty concentrating in the past month.

The app was initially tested in 2015 and 2016 with 31 Duke cancer patients. Results from the resulting study suggest that 86 percent of users found that it reduced their anxiety levels, while offering practical solutions to PTSD symptoms. Long term, the researchers hope that the app will be offered as a standard part of the cancer care package.

Apple’s ResearchKit ambitions

ResearchKit was first introduced by Apple back in March 2015. An open-source iOS software framework designed to crowdsource volunteers for medical research studies, the platform turns every iOS deice into a medical crowdsourcing tool.

Earlier this year, ResearchKit got a big update, adding new “active tasks” researchers can incorporate into their studies, along with the ability to display rich video content to users within apps.

Duke Institute for Health Innovation’s Cancer Distress Coach app can be downloaded for free from the App Store.

Via: Apple


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