The secret power of innovations

The Apple-CareKit: A revolution in health care?

The Apple CareKit with its countless potential uses shows how mobile applications can influence the

health market. But innovations do not come out of nowhere. Ideas can literally grow – you

just need to know the right tools. An innovation is not the end of a creative process; it is only the

beginning. Like a single domino, it can get things moving ever onward.

The Apple CareKit in the service of health

The open-source software development platform CareKit was launched in April this year. Its modules can be used by developers and individually customized to create new, even more specific health apps.

CareKit consists of four modules which make it possible to bring the central functions of health management on a mobile phone:

  • “CareCard” provides the tools in order to remind the patient of certain tasks – the classic “Pill Reminder App” thereby becomes redundant.
  • “Symptom and Measurement Tracker” offers a central interface to collect data – related to perceived pain and well-being, as well as objective measurements such as blood pressure.
  • “Insights” illustrates the data – allowing the progress of the treatment (ideally successful) to be made visible to the patient.
  • “Connect” then helps to transfer the results to a doctor, clinic or family and friends.

In addition to this, there are also two more modules, that manage and export data in the background. The current version of CareKit does not rely on an external server or Apple service. It is a purely software extension for mobile devices. Therefore the Apple CareKit is no app – it is a building block, which helps to invent new apps.

Already today the information collected by health apps is used by American doctors for their work – for example in post-operative treatments, in treatments of chronic diseases such as diabetes or Parkinson’s disease, in treating depression, or in monitoring of pregnancies. Here CareKit has the potential to replace individual solutions and provide an overall system. Thanks to CareKit, more participants can also be obtained for all kinds of health studies, which more or less collect the required data “in passing”.

With CareKit new chances in oncology are possible

 Even though technology offers advantages for many illnesses – especially for chronic ones – some groups of doctors are particularly open to new technologies. This is very much the case with oncologists. They are especially open to new technologies, and rank among the “early adopters”. Already today they are happy to remain in contact with their patients via electronic means. According to a Manhattan Research study, 73 percent of European oncologists communicate with their patients via digital channels already today. 90 percent of oncologists use a smartphone for professional purposes. They are therefore better connected in terms of mobile networks than any other groups of doctors. 1

But how can CareKit be specifically used to bring about improvements in oncology? The central interface for data and display allows it to connect data sources without boundaries. On the basis of the information collected, it will then be easier to gain new knowledge. With the Apple CareKit, tools can be developed for patients that will help them to retain control and give them a sense of security. For doctors, CareKit extends the possibilities of monitoring the effectiveness of a certain treatment and make recommendations. Nevertheless, not completely without obstacles: According to Kantar Worldpanel, almost 74 percent of the users in Germany use the Android operating system on their smartphones. For doctors, however, it is exactly the other way around. The majority of German doctors (56 percent) use iOS. 2

Apps that are supposed to connect doctors with their patients must be able to overcome this barrier because the Apple CareKit is, of course, only available for iOS.

Digital trends of the future for the patient and the physician

Thanks to the Apple CareKit, the turnaround of mobile communication gains additional importance in the management of patients. Diagnosis, treatment and research do no longer take place in quiet corners, but more and more often in real time – in the real world. Therefore a new era could also be heralded for clinical studies. Patients are becoming more committed. They will want to actively participate in the future of their health, instead of just leaving the practice with a prescription. They want to create solutions together with their doctor.

The healthy will be even healthier – no question. But how do you motivate the passive ones among us? Joseph Cafazzo, engineer and director of the Center for Global eHealth Innovation in Toronto, believes that it will be up to the doctors as to whether wearables are accepted by the patient or not. The tool thus turns from a fitness product to a medical product for targeted health promotion.

Getting second opinions will become a standard. Already now patients often come to the doctor’s practice with very firm ideas of what they need to make themselves feel better. The next step could consist of “downloading” health instead of just administering forms of drugs. According to a recent study, 60 percent of the baby boomers would download a health app recommended by their doctor. The app’versation between patients and doctors, i.e. the discussion of the use of tools in order to support the patient‘s health, will become an important part of the treatment of the future.

Setting new trends, instead of chasing them

But how is it possible to actively shape trends yourself in this brave new world or even set them at all, instead of “just” gossiping about them afterwards? inVentiv Health has developed a smart process, designed to specifically promote innovations within your own company. With the “What Could Be” process, companies are given possibilities to create a real factory of ideas. The future of the healthcare market can therefore be actively shaped and the competition will be swept away. A radical way of rethinking must take place in order for new trends to arise. Instead of “we’re planning”, it should be “we’ll do it”. inVentiv works together with trend spotters around the world who collect evidence of how expectations are changing and what possibilities can arise for the healthcare industry. Currently inVentiv is observing more than 60 new trends and their future prospects. The results of these observations are published quarterly in trend magazines for the consumer, digital, health and communication sectors. But how can you find innovations yourself in the company you work for?

“What Could Be” – three simple steps to innovation

The “What Could Be” process was developed together with customers in order to explore their communication strategies and to come up with new ideas via creative thinking. Instead of the tunnel vision we are gaining a 360-degree perspective. Why is “What Could Be” (WCB) necessary for this?

Because what worked in the past does not have to work now. And what works now may not work in the future. The “What Could Be” process helps to set innovational strength free. Not through heavy contemplation or funny games but by focusing on global trends, which have been determined by a team of trend scouts.

  1. The “Challenge”

As the first step, the most important and prevailing trends for the customer, the company and the market need to be identified. The two or three trends which possess the greatest potential for innovation are then worked out from ten to twelve possible directions.

  1. Finding innovations

Proven techniques are used to demonstrate a wide range of possible innovations in an all-day interdisciplinary brainstorming session. Interactive elements help the team to stay focused and strong as efficiently as possible throughout the day. Normally up to 100 unique ideas are found in such sessions. But what would WCB be if the result was “only” a mountain of ideas, without any clear guidance or direction? Of course, the best ideas will be identified as such.

  1. Prioritizing ideas

Finally, the ideas are evaluated together according to their relevance, their chances of success and their viability, and expounded upon in an interactive presentation. The result is a “workbook” that shows the path towards the attainment of the goal, step-by-step, with the aid of sketches and demos.

Therefore innovation is more of a process than just a spontaneous invention. As Bill Gates put it: “We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten. Don’t let yourself be lulled into inaction.”

The example of the Apple CareKit shows what enormous changes are possible with a seemingly small idea in the form of an app, and what benefits can ensue for people and for health care. Innovation potential exists in every company. It is just a matter of tracking it down.


Igor Polisski is heading up the Digital Strategy at inVentiv Health Communications in Germany. His experience covers eight years of communications strategy, content and social media marketing from FMCG and lifestyle agency as well as client side. Responsible for international pharma clients since January 2016 at inVentiv Health.



Dr. Andreas Reinbolz is the Managing Director at inVentiv Health Communications in Germany. He brings over 20 years of international communications experience, 10 of them directly in Healthcare and Multichannel Marketing.


About the Author:

As Strategist of Innovation, Drew is charged daily with championing innovative thinking and doing. Drew is part of a global team that leads new innovative ideas that attract different advocates among existing and potential brands that are shared across all agency partners. Drew is backed by over 16 years of brand, sales and marketing experience with Fortune 500 companies such as Progressive and Nationwide Insurance as well as Founder & President of his own healthcare insurance agency for 6 years. Most recently Drew was part of the agency team that launched Briviact for UCB, Foundation Medicine as well as key roles with Eli Lilly Oncology and Johnson & Johnson.