ResearchKit vs. CareKit vs. ResearchDroid – Health in Your Pocket

by Priya Menon

Patient recruitment and engagement has always been a challenge where clinical trials are concerned. This is where the growing use of apps to support clinical trials is changing things, not only in decreasing drop-out rates, but also improving the capturing and reporting of outcome data.

The development of CareKit and ResearchKit by Apple and ResearchDroid by Applied Informatics, helped engineers create apps that supported life sciences and clinical trials. These apps allowed researchers to track clinical trial participants, their progress and collect data.

ResearchKit, Apples’ Game Changing Launch

In 2015, Apple changed the way medical research could be done. It launched ResearchKit which turned millions of iphones around the world into a tool for medical research.

Image courtesy: Apple

ResearchKit gave developers the ability to make new iPhone apps that can not only gather health-related but also access data from the Apple Health app – and all of that collected data will help doctors and scientists study diseases and other medical issues. ResearchKit chiefly makes it easier for researchers to recruit volunteer participants for large-scale studies.

One of the launch apps for ResearchKit, Parkinson mPower, was part of a study that accrued a potential research panel of 9,500 patients. 11,000 people downloaded the MyHeart Counts app within 24 hours of it becoming available. An element of this may well be the novelty value of being able to sign up to research studies with newfound ease, but initial signs are certainly promising.

ResearchKit expands upon the Health app and HealthKit. It accesses sensors in the iPhone, including the accelerometer, microphone, gyroscope, and GPS sensors, in order to gain insight into gait, motor impairment, fitness, speech, memory, and more. None of this information will be collected by ResearchKit-based apps unless the app is downloaded and users willingly participate in the studies, and decide to share their data.

CareKit  – Empower People with their Health Data

ResearchKit is an open source framework that lets developers create medical apps specifically designed to recruit patients and help them participate in clinical research studies whereas CareKit was launched to ‘enable people to actively manage their own medical conditions’. CareKit apps would allow users to keep track of care plans and monitor symptoms and medication; providing insights that help people better understand their own health. They could also share information with doctors, nurses and family members.

It is indeed confusing and difficult to segregate ResearchKit and CareKit with the apparent large overlap they present. However, Apple clarifies that while both can help clinicians and patients monitor care by remotely collecting data. ResearchKit apps will be used in context of a research study whereas CareKit will not have this limitation. CareKit apps can be used by patients to manage their own health as well as to reach out to specific patient populations.  

What is CareKit?

CareKit is a framework that can be used by developers to create apps that help people manage their medical conditions and easily track and share information with their doctors. CareKit-built apps don’t work on all Apple devices. CareKit apps work on the iPhone 5 or later (including the iPhone SE), as well as the latest iPod Touch, and often the Apple Watch too, depending on the app.

Image courtesy:

The framework also includes a number of different modules, which can be customised according to the needs of the patient, and further built on to create apps as complex and comprehensive as the developer wants. The four modules that developers can build upon in CareKit:

  1. The Care Card module helps patients manage the tasks they need to perform to keep up with their treatment.
  2. The Symptom and Measurement Tracker helps users keep track of how effective their treatment is.
  3. Insights shows users users the relationship between their treatment and their progress.
  4. Connect helps users communicate with their doctors and other members of their care team, including friends and family.

CareKit lets users use their iPhone to track progress, keep a list of what they need to do and even let their doctors see their progress. On the other end, researchers can gain access to large amounts of data which could provide insight into developing new treatments and cures for diseases.

ResearchDroid – The Beginning of the Android Story

It can be harder to develop apps for Android because the operating system runs on so many different devices, while Apple iOS is exclusive to the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. However, the gap is closing.

ResearchDroid is a port of Apple’s ResearchKit for the Android platform. It is actually an android library developed for automating survey forms and information consent building process. ResearchDroid deeply integrates with the Android platform and programming conventions. Instead of copying or mimicking the Objective-C codebase, ResearchDroid makes the APIs look and feel natural to developers in the Android camp.

Features Of ResearchDroid

  • Create informed Consent Using Json File
    • Create Consent Pages
    • Swipeable  Views
    • Indicator to show progress of consent
  • Create Surveys Forms Using Json File
    • Creating Form Fields
    • Validating Form Fields
    • Wizard form (page by page)
    • Create signature field for getting user’s consent or any other doc signed
  • UI:
    • Material Design UI
    • ResearchKit like UI
    • Override style as per own specifications


Fact Sheet: ResearchKit vs. CareKit vs. ResearchDroid

Compiled by Zaid Pathan,


Traditional research has been constrained to informing potential participants about a study, the risks, the benefits and so on, by sitting directly with the participant (or on the phone) to step them through the paperwork and other material to complete the informed consent. For each participant enrolled into a study, it takes around 30 minutes for a researcher to go through the consenting process. The fact that the process is so time-consuming limits the number of people that can be signed up for a research project due to the amount of time available to researchers.

With electronic consenting these limitations are all addressed. Potential study participants can be stepped through the informed consent using their iPhone, advanced multimedia can be used to more efficiently inform the participant as to the details of the studies as well as the risks and potential benefits. In order to prevent users from just skipping through the informing stages of the consent process, the apps feature questions to ensure that users can only consent to take part if they fully understand what they are signing up for.

The studies using mobile apps represent an entirely new way to perform human health research, putting the participant truly at the center with frequent feedback and control of how their data are used. Furthermore, the power of these pervasive devices on quantifying health on an individual is tremendous, opening up real opportunities for truly personalized medicine.

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