A new iPhone app is conducting the largest study of LGBTQ health concerns, allowing researchers to better target medical issues that occur within minority sexuality and gender groups, understand risk factors and provide better treatment. This is not the first time technology has allowed the field of medicine to tap into specific health communities and better learn about the nature of their issues; in fact, viral videos spreading across social media has made it easier for doctors to learn more about orphan diseases and receive more funding for clinical trials. This app, however, holds potential beyond specified treatment by making strides toward removing stigmas against LGBTQ discrimination within health care.

Nowadays we are using our iPhones for almost everything, including health. With apps and programs that can track calorie intake, and exercise we have only reached the tip of the iceberg on all health care can unlock with our favorite gadgets. Researchers are beginning to understand that the iPhone can also be used to conduct studies with wider pools of people. Case in point, the new “PRIDE study” conducted through the ResearchKit app developed by the University of California at San Francisco. The ResearchKit app, launched in March, has previously been used to conduct research on diabetes, breast cancer, asthma, cardiovascular disease and Parkinson’s disease, but now it is addressing the health care needs of the LGBTQ community. Researchers are using the app to survey one of the largest pools of LGBTQ individuals yet to learn about some of the issues common to the community, including HIV/AIDS, smoking, cancer, obesity, mental health issues and depression.

“The main question there is, what is the relationship between being LGBTQ – or more broadly a sexual or gender minority person — and mental and physical health?” said Mitchell Lunn, co-director of the PRIDE study in an interview with BuzzFeed.

Lunn and his colleagues are especially eager to find out more about the health concerns of transgender and bisexual people, a group of individuals that are particularly understudied. Almost half of transgender people face discrimination within health care by often being subjected to verbal harassment and denial of treatment. As one can imagine, the frequency of these events discourage many transgender people from receiving the medical attention they need. However, with the introduction of this app, transgender individuals can find comfort in the fact that their health concerns matter, and that professionals are seeking to find out more so that they can be treated. By studying this group more in depth, researchers will not only understand their prominent medical concerns, but they will give transgender people a forum to securely express health care issues without facing discrimination.

More broadly, researchers are excited about the potential of this app because it can reach a larger group of people in a shorter amount of time. As an unprecedented amount of people have smart phones, researchers can utilize this technology to find subjects for their trail without the difficulty of having to gather people for the study, and get them to a clinic. Stanford University’s team has already found that the releasing of their app has garnered 11,000 people to sign up; on average, it would take over a year to gather that many people.

To better understand which health concerns are a priority, the PRIDE study is surveying its users on which medical issues pertaining to the LGBTQ community they want the app to address, and will then tailor their questions to these interests.

If you wish to download the PRIDE study app, you can find it in the App Store, or you can text PRIDESTUDY to 74121 to receive a link.

We have made many strides for LGBTQ rights in recent years, but health care is still a major concern. Before this app, researchers have had a very difficult time addressing the health concerns of this specified community, while discrimination has prevented many from speaking out about their health problems. However, now that individuals can voice their medical problems in a way that is both discrete and free of any negative backlash, researchers can access this community for the first time in a very big way. Overall, this is a huge step in the direction toward removing health care stigmas against LGBTQ individuals, and helping these people receive the health care they need.