mHealth apps are enabling bigger insights from larger data sets

Researchers are finding the expanding web of patients and data created by expanding mHealth initiatives and tracking apps contains insights that wouldn't have been possible without today's technology.

"In the past, stuff like this was just logistically impossible to do," Yvonne Chan, MD, PhD, director of digital health at the Icahn Institute for Genomics and Multiscale Biology at Mount Sinai in New York City, told Nature in a recent column. "It opens up a brand new area of research."

Apple's ResearchKit developer, for example, announced Monday the capability to integrate genetic data from individuals using 23andMe's genetic testing services. Apps like Asthma Health for the iPhone, developed by Dr. Chan and other Icahn Institute researchers to correlate environmental data with respiratory and asthma flare-ups in patients, will be able to use that genetic data to draw conclusions about a much larger population using more factors than ever before.

Scalability has been a major limitation for studies in the past, but when users have the ability to opt-in to share or contribute the data their mobile devices collect, the number of participants in research for a given illness grows exponentially.

While there is still a ways to go in regard to testing the limitations of mHealth apps and programs, some researchers expect the technology to only grow more efficient at capturing data that matters for disease prevention and detection.

Read the full Nature column here.

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