Tech

Apple is using a new app to get volunteers for research on hearing, heart disease and women's health

Key Points
  • Apple is releasing a new research app for users to sign up to three new health studies.
  • It is teaming with medical partners to study heart, hearing and women's health.
  • Apple has ambitious plans in the medical sector and has hired dozens of doctors.
Jeff Williams, chief operating officer of Apple Inc., speaks during an Apple event at the Steve Jobs Theater at Apple Park on September 12, 2018 in Cupertino, California.
Justin Sullivan | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Apple is launching a new app for consumers to sign up for up to three new medical studies.

The app, dubbed Research, will be available to download via the Apple Store on Thursday. People can ask to participate in studies on heart, movement and hearing issues, and on women's health. Those who meet the criteria will be asked to stay involved for up to a decade.

Apple has several major efforts underway in health, ranging from its Apple Watch, which monitors heart health and movement, to its employee health clinics. It has hired dozens of doctors in a wide range of specialties, and has seen some high-profile departures, as it slowly moves into the $3.5 trillion medical sector. CEO Tim Cook has gone as far as to say that it could be the company's "greatest contribution" to mankind.

Each of the new studies is a bit different in its design and scope. The movement-oriented study, for instance, requires that participants also have an Apple Watch. It was designed with Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital and the American Heart Association and is intended to promote exercise and cardiovascular health, as well as to look warning signs for atrial fibrillation, which puts patients at greater risk for a stroke.

One of Apple's studies involves hearing health.

The women's health study, which is hoping to better understand menstrual cycles and their relationship to a set of health conditions, requires participants to submit monthly surveys.

The hearing study, which looks at the long-term impact of sound exposure, will send notifications to users when they're potentially hurting their hearing in loud environments.

These studies are all designed to be digital, meaning that participants don't need to show up anywhere for testing. If the Apple Heart study is any indication, the company could see hundreds of thousands of sign-ups per study, although it remains to be seen whether participants will remain engaged for years. Apple has also outlined a detailed consent process, which might also put off some potential users. But the company presumably decided to move ahead with that to show that it takes privacy and security seriously.

Apple, in a shift away from its policy of declining to comment on future projects, also tells people during sign-up that the research they participate in might inform future product design. That wouldn't be all that surprising, as its AirPods are already being used by some people with hearing challenges. It already offers menstrual cycle tracking as a feature in its Health software and has released a number of products related to heart health, most notably the electrocardiogram app and sensor.

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