Smartphone devices, apps may not be best mobile BP tools

Smartphone device add-ons, apps and online videos offering blood pressure reading information and measurement capability may not be accurate or trustworthy, two new studies presented at the recent annual meeting of the American Society of Hypertension reveal.

One of the studies claims that one-third of 176 YouTube hypertension and blood pressure videos reviewed by researchers are giving consumers "misleading" information and may be recommending therapies that haven't been sanctioned by credible medical agencies, such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 

"It's quite concerning," Cambridge Health Alliance's Nilay Kumar, lead researcher of the YouTube study, told HealthDay News. "The videos that were misleading seemed to get a lot more hits than the videos from authoritative sources."

The researchers acknowledge that a majority of the videos were "useful" in terms of blood pressure medical insight, though.

Blood pressure monitoring devices are a big part in the wave of mHealth tools that are calculating everything from body fluid levels to oxygen levels to cardiac rehab efforts. Such tools are predicted to grow exponentially, becoming an $8.03 billion market in just five years. The market for blood-pressure devices, in particular, is a lucrative one, given that nearly one-third of the U.S. population has high blood pressure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The second study focused on home-based blood pressure devices connected to smartphones, specifically Apple's iPhone. Software tracks the user's blood pressure results and lets consumers and patients share data with medical professionals. The research states the results from such devices can be inaccurate, giving too high or too low a number.

Dominic Sica, president-elect of the American Society of Hypertension, told HealthDay that the results indicate that such tools require deeper investigation and improvement on accuracy.

"This technology clearly needs better refinement," said Sica, who did not participate in either study.

Blood pressure devices aren't the only mHealth tools under scrutiny. A recent study on mobile apps that monitor diabetes indicates such tools also need further refinement.

For more information:
- here's the YouTube study's abstract
- check out the home-based BP devices abstract
- read the HealthDay News article