Healthcare Technology Featured Article

August 17, 2015

Smartphones: The New Blood Pressure Monitors

The huge problem with high blood pressure—besides the fact that it can lead to heart attack and stroke—is that it is hard to detect without the assistance of technology. According to the American Heart Association, high blood pressure is more often than not a symptomless ailment. For this reason, it is vital that patients regularly get checked, especially those who are known to be at risk.

While conveniences are already in place to encourage everyone to regularly check their blood pressure, such as units at pharmacies, a new set of doohickeys released under the umbrella-term of Accutension are on a mission to make monitoring blood pressure simpler. And unlike automatic blood pressure monitors (BPM) which have been shown to be subject to variation in readings according to a post on Harvard’s Health blog, Accutension detects blood pressure by listening to the sounds of blood flow, just as doctors in a clinical setting would. The big difference is that this BPM is compatible with your smartphone.

It works like this: the sound of the tube from the stethoscope is fed into the smartphone through a microphone hooked into the headphone jack. Users then set up and run their BPM as usual, but they video record the device’s display with their smartphone. Once the test has been completed, the user can replay the video of the BPM display, while listening to the sounds detected by the Accutension stethoscope (called the Stetho). This allows the user to match up the sounds detected by the Stetho with the visual results of his or her BPM. When the user hears the first Korotkoff sound, the number that should appear on the screen is the systolic pressure (the top number, which measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats), and upon the sound’s disappearance, the number on the screen should reflect the diastolic pressure (the bottom number, which measures the pressure in the arteries between heartbeats). If there are any discrepancies, than it could mean that the BPM’s algorithm is inaccurate. 

Image via Accutension

Alternatively, variations of the Accutension allow for more in-depth reporting of blood pressure. The Accutension Classic allows users to test the accuracy of their BPM’s algorithm as well as its pressure sensor by utilizing a module that connects to the arm of the BPM. The diagnostics will be displayed on the user’s smartphone via the Accutension App. A third option is to use the Accutension Cuff as a standalone blood pressure kit, which supplies both a visual and audio reading that can be played back on a smartphone, and saved to show a doctor later. Last but not least, Accutension Doc allows users to conduct their own research with the inclusion of a few helpful extras. 

The conveniences afforded by healthcare technology are by no means a replacement for knowledgeable medical professionals. To the contrary, at-home tools such as Accutension, and telemedicine technology that allows doctors to assess patients’ health remotely, are intended to enhance medical professionals’ abilities to monitor our health with greater efficiency. Telemedicine, for example, allows doctors to treat minor ailments of patients in underserved areas who may otherwise have to travel great distances for medical advice that could have been provided over video conference. 

In the case of Accutension—and countless other smartphone-based healthcare applications—efficiency is derived in the form of at-home medical technology that is advanced enough to provide accurate information, but also simple enough, and affordable enough, for consumer use.

If the current mindset driving innovation in the healthcare technology arena (and tech in general for that matter) could be summed up, it would be as follows: convenience cannot, and will not, be a tradeoff for quality.

Let’s hope it stays this way, and more importantly, let’s hope that this mindset permeates other areas of our everyday lives. 


Edited by Maurice Nagle

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