Your Smartphone May Help You Control Your Blood Pressure

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Neetika Garg, MD
Fellow in Nephrology
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Division of Nephrology, Department of Medicine
Boston, MA 02215

MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Garg: One in every three Americans suffers from hypertension. Since high blood pressure (BP) frequently does not cause any symptoms, self-blood pressure monitoring at home and patient education are critical components of patient management. With more than 58% of the US adults owning a smartphone, mobile-based health technologies (most commonly in the form of applications or “apps”) can serve as useful adjuncts in diagnosis and management of hypertension. At the same time, several smartphone-based applications are advertised as having blood pressure measurement functionality, which have not been validated against a gold standard. In this cross-sectional study, we analyzed the top 107 hypertension related apps available on the most popular smartphone platforms (Google Android and Apple iPhone) to analyze the functional characteristics and consumer interaction metrics of various hypertension related apps.

Nearly three-quarters of the apps record and track blood pressure, heart rate, salt intake, caloric intake and weight/body mass index. These app features can facilitate patient participation in hypertension management, medication adherence and patient-physician communication. However, it was concerning to find that 6.5% of the apps analyzed could transform the smartphone into a cuffless BP measuring device. None of these had any documentations of validation against a gold standard. Furthermore, number of downloads and favorable user ratings were significantly higher for these apps compared to apps without blood pressure measurement function. This highlights the need for greater oversight and regulation in medical device development.

MedicalResearch: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Garg: Physicians should incorporate use of mobile-based health technology into discussions at patient visits for various reasons:

First, tracking their blood pressure can motivate patients to participate in their own care.

Secondly, many apps allow patients to transmit data entered over a period of time directly and conveniently to their physicians, thereby facilitating patient-physician communication and health management.

Thirdly, our study highlights the need for cautioning patients regarding use of very popular, but as yet unvalidated use of smartphone-based apps as blood pressure measuring devices.

Similarly, patients should use smartphone-based applications for tracking their blood pressure as these data can help with diagnosis and management of chronic health conditions such as hypertension. At the same time, patients should be aware of the presence of popular yet potentially misleading resources. They should look for information/methodologies that are approved/validated by reliable professional organizations. Also, if they are using any smartphone-based technologies for blood pressure measurement, they should discuss the same with their physicians.

MedicalResearch: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Garg: There is an unmet need in mobile-based health technologies that can effectively and conveniently assist with management of chronic health conditions such as hypertension. Future research should focus on development and validation of various blood pressure measurement devices that can facilitate management of this chronic health condition.

Many groups are in fact working on smartphone-based devices that can measure blood pressure without use of the traditional cuff.

Secondly and more importantly, it would be important to determine the actual impact of use of these resources on hypertension management and related outcomes.

Citation:

J Am Soc Hypertens. 2015 Feb;9(2):130-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jash.2014.12.001. Epub 2014 Dec 11.

A content analysis of smartphone-based applications for hypertension management.

Kumar N1, Khunger M2, Gupta A3, Garg N4.

Neetika Garg, MD, Fellow in Nephrology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Division of Nephrology, Department of Medicine, Boston, MA 02215 (2015). Your Smartphone May Help You Control Your Blood Pressure