Study shows promise of mobile apps, connected devices to help patients manage hypertension

Hello Heart app on a smartphone screen
Hello Heart's blood pressure cuff and mobile app (Hello Heart)

A combination mobile app and at-home blood pressure cuff helped patients with hypertension decrease their blood pressure over three years, a new study found.

The program from company Hello Heart helped reduce blood pressure for 84% of users with stage 2 hypertension, the most severe form of high blood pressure. The study, published in JAMA Network Open, tracked more than 28,000 Hello Heart users over three years and is the largest and longest published research of a digital therapeutic for hypertension, according to the company.

The study found that at 12 weeks, 69.9% of users with stage 1 hypertension and 84.8% of users with stage 2 hypertension reduced their blood pressure. At the end of Year 1, those with stage 2 hypertension who reduced their blood pressure increased to 85.7%, and, by Year 3, it remained high at 84.4%.

Hello Heart’s mobile app links to an at-home blood pressure cuff, allowing users to manage their blood pressure, medications and physical activity at home using an artificial-intelligence-based solution.

The app includes digital coaching to provide personalized healthcare advice to the user and can even track more serious cardiac events like an irregular heartbeat.

RELATED: CVS Caremark grows platform for PBM clients to manage digital health tools

Nearly half of U.S. adults suffer from hypertension, propelling a booming market for digital heart health solutions. Created in 2013, Hello Heart scored $45 million in series C funding earlier this year and was also added to CVS Caremark’s digital health platform in 2020.

“This is the first peer-reviewed, published study reporting the long-term experience of a digital health application for blood pressure management, with a magnitude of association that is clinically meaningful,” said Alexis Beatty, M.D., a cardiologist and associate professor at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and the lead author of the study. “The level of engagement is something I have not seen in other digital hypertension management programs. Sustained engagement and decreases in systolic blood pressure of more than 20 mmHg could reduce a person’s chances of heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, and death.”

Before her appointment at UCSF, Beatty was tapped by Apple in 2018 to join its health team, where she served as one of the company’s heart health experts through 2019.

Tech giants like Apple have big plans for the digital heart health industry, too. The company’s latest Apple Watch included an electrocardiogram to measure for abnormal heart rhythms, and The Wall Street Journal reported in September that Apple is working on a blood pressure management tool for a future iteration of the smartwatch.

RELATED: Hello Heart scores $45M series C to build out heart monitoring app

The Hello Heart program is currently available only through select employers as part of their health benefits.

For most users, the study found that any level of engagement with the app was associated with a reduction in blood pressure, which Hello Heart CEO Maayan Cohen suggested is a big step forward.

“There is a high amount of skepticism and cynicism around hypertension management solutions because for years, there has been no effective solution, and current solutions yield low participant engagement. We’re pleased that the study demonstrated such strong clinical results that are sustained over three years for Hello Heart users,” Cohen said in a statement.