Hypertension management apps need better regulation

Nearly 14% of Google Play apps used a phone's camera to measure blood pressure without a cuff or proper validation.

Hypertension management apps need more regulation
Hypertension management apps need more regulation

More oversight is needed in regards to mobile apps that help patients self-manage their hypertension, results of a study published in the Journal of the American Society of Hypertension suggest.

Although many apps simply track and analyze blood pressure over time, some apps use a phone's camera to measure blood pressure without a cuff, and these apps have not been validated, according to the investigators.

"Despite the advantages of mobile health technology, our study underscores a need for caution among patients and healthcare personnel," wrote Nilay Kumar, MD, of Harvard Medical School, in Boston, Mass., and colleagues.

To determine the effectiveness of hypertension self-management apps, the researchers analyzed 107 mobile apps that topped Google Play and Apple iTunes “hypertension” and “high blood pressure” searchers. The investigators recorded major app functionalities including tracking (for blood pressure, pulse, weight, BMI), medical device (to measure pulse or blood pressure), general information on hypertension and medication adherence tools.

Of the apps, 72% had tracking function, 22% had tools to enhance medical adherence, 37% contained general information on hypertension, and 8% contained information on the DASH diet.

A majority of apps for hypertension were designed primarily for health management functions; however, 14% of Google Android apps could transform a phone into a medical device to measure blood pressure. None of these apps employed the use of a cuff or had any documentation of validation against a set standard, reported the scientists. Only 3% of mobile apps were developed by health-care agencies such as universities or professional organizations.

“Consumers have a strong tendency to download and favorably rate apps that are advertised to measure blood pressure and heart rate, despite a lack of validation for these apps,” concluded the researchers.

“There is a need for greater oversight in medical app development for HTN, especially when they qualify as a medical device.”

References

  1. Kumar N et al. Journal of the American Society of Hypertension. 2014; doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jash.2014.12.001
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