Building on the success of its ResearchKit program, Apple has announced the launch of a new software framework designed to make it easier to build apps that enable people to actively manage their own medical conditions.

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Apple’s new CareKit program contains digital health tools that will enable people to track care plans and monitor symptoms.

The new CareKit program provides digital health tools that make it easier to develop solutions that give individuals the ability to keep track of care plans, monitor symptoms and medication, as well as providing insights that help people better understand their own health.

With the ability to share information with doctors, nurses or family members, CareKit apps are intended to help people take a more active role in the management of their health.

“We’re thrilled with the profound impact ResearchKit has already had on the pace and scale of conducting medical research, and have realized that many of the same principles could help with individual care,” said Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer.

“We believe that giving individuals the tools to understand what is happening with their health is incredibly powerful, and apps designed using CareKit make this a reality by empowering people to take a more active role in their care.”

The open-source development platform will launch next month and will include four basic modules. The first, “Care Card” helps people track their individual care plans and action items, such as taking medication or completing physical therapy exercises. Activities can automatically be tracked and entered using sensors in the Apple Watch or iPhone.

Care Cards have already been incorporated into a post-surgical care app that has been developed by the Texas Medical Center. Using the CareKit module, the app allows users to easily keep track of post-surgical needs – like monitoring pain levels, temperature, range of mobility and medication – and helps patients stay connected and share data with doctors and care teams.

The “Symptom and Measurement Tracking” module will let users easily record their symptoms and how they are feeling, as well as tracking quantitative data from sensors for things like monitoring temperature for possible infections or measuring pain or fatigue. Progress updates can include simple surveys, photos that capture the progression of a wound or activities, calculated by using the iPhone’s accelerometer and gyroscope, like quantifying range of motion.

CareKit also includes an “Insight Dashboard” that maps symptoms against the action items in the Care Card to easily show how treatments are working, and a “Connect” module that makes it simple for people to share information and communicate with doctors, care teams or family members about their health and any change in condition.

mPower is a research app that has already begun using the CareKit modules to create a clearer picture of life with Parkinson’s disease.

Since the launch of the original mPower research app, which was built – using Apple’s ResearchKit – by the University of Rochester in conjunction with Sage BioNetworks, the app has enrolled over 10,000 participants, making it the largest Parkinson’s study in history, with 93% of participants never having taken part in any kind of research before.

The app helps researchers diagnose and better understand Parkinson’s disease by using the gyroscope and other iPhone features to measure dexterity, balance, gait and memory.

Researchers have gained greater insight into the factors that make symptoms better or worse, such as sleep, exercise and mood. They hope to now extend the benefit of the research using the CareKit modules.

Dr. Ray Dorsey, David M. Levy professor of neurology at the University of Rochester Medical Center, comments:

With ResearchKit, we quickly realized the power of mobile apps for running inexpensive, high-quality clinical studies with unprecedented reach.

We hope that CareKit will help us close the gap between our research findings and how we care for our Parkinson’s patients day to day. It’s opening up a whole new opportunity for the democratization of research and medicine.”

Other organizations and projects that plan to build with CareKit include the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, which plans to provide patients with more insight into their own chronic care management through home health monitoring devices that securely store data in HealthKit .

Glow, Inc. is also looking to incorporate CareKit modules into its pregnancy app, Glow Nurture, to guide women through a healthier pregnancy, and One Drop hopes to empower people with a better approach to managing their diabetes.

CareKit is the latest in a series of programs from Apple designed to build the company’s portfolio of health-related developer tools and establish the tech-giant as a significant driver of digital health solutions.

Keep up with the latest in healthcare technology by visiting The Journal of mHealth.