Apple updates developer guidelines for medical research apps

Apple has updated its iOS development guidelines to spell out what consent mobile apps dealing with human medical research must obtain.

A new clause states that this type of app must get permission from participants, and if they are minors, from a parent or guardian. Developers must also inform users about the research's nature, purpose and duration, as well as about procedures, risks and benefits to the participant. Other data that must be provided: information about confidentiality and handling of data, including sharing with third parties, a point of contact for participant questions and a description of how to withdrawal from the study.

Developers must follow these guidelines in order for Apple to approve the software for sale in its App Store.

The addition comes after Apple on Monday announced a software framework that allows developers to create apps for medical research. Called ResearchKit, downloading an app developed with the framework essentially turns an iPhone into a diagnostic device capable of conducting tests and capturing health data. The first five apps developed with ResearchKit debuted Monday and deal with breast cancer, asthma, Parkinson's disease, heart health and diabetes. The framework will be released as open source in April, potentially allowing apps to be created for rival OSes like Android.

Data collected by the initial apps will not be used for commercial purposes, according to the medical institutions that created them. The data will only be shared with other medical researchers for scientific studies and people must consent to this use.

Apple Pay app development guidelines were also updated. Apps that use Apple's mobile wallet to offer recurring payments must at minimum, disclose the length of the renewal term and the fact that it will continue until canceled, as well as "what will be provided during each period, the charges that will be billed to the customer, and how to cancel."

Finally, apps that allow music and videos to be downloaded without the content owner's permission from YouTube, SoundCloud, Vimeo and other third-party sources will be rejected.

Fred O'Connor writes about IT careers and health IT for The IDG News Service. Follow Fred on Twitter at @fredjoconnor. Fred's e-mail address is fred_o'

Fred O'Connor

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