Blood Pressure Apps

Happy New Year everyone!

I hope all is well in this new year and that any resolutions that have been made are realistic and being accomplished. This year I’m writing a book. It’s to be done by Christmas. I think it will be with time to spare. My hopes are to get it published one day.  Enough about me…

I wanted to start the new year by talking about something that interests me from a professional perspective, as well as personal; Apps.

Apps are on most everyone’s phone and tablet and even on your computer, depending on the browser you use. With Microsoft recently releasing Office for free for use on Android and iOS, I find myself writing my book on my iPad just as much as my computer and laptop. Dropbox and Google Drive are indispensable as my need for a thumb drive is all but vanished. My kids play Angry Birds, any assortment of Disney games and some interesting human body apps that teach about how the body works to kids. I even like going outside on a starry night with my Starry Night app and looking at the stars, learning names, and even following the paths of satellites as they cross into my field of view. Too much screen time is problematic of course, but we’ll save that for another post.

Apps seem to be as plentiful as bad ideas about health

Apps seem to be as plentiful as bad ideas about health

Health apps have been popular too. I’ve used MyFitnessPal to track calories and workouts. I just received a FitBit from my company as a Christmas gift. It measures steps taken, sleep, etc. It syncs with my phone and I can make alarms for multiple things, track calories eaten, and even has caller id which is nice so I don’t have to fish my phone out of my pocket, I can just look on my wrist. I don’t have the model that measures pulse, but I’m thinking about springing for one, who knows?

Some docs are using medical apps in their practice, at least for things like atrial fibrillation. AlliveCor is one such app, and will only set you back $200. It can read certain rhythms in the heart and show them on your phones screen. These apps can quite read if you’re having a heart attack and can’t replace a 12 lead scan, but they seem to be gaining popularity and could be a huge help in the future for a more tech savvy generation as it ages.

One very common app, the one I want to focus on a bit more, is one that measures blood pressure. Actually there are several. One of them is called “Instant Blood Pressure — Monitor Blood Pressure Using Only Your iPhone” and you only have to shell out $3.99 for it. You apparently put your finger over the camera and it is able to read your pulse, and then you put the mic to your chest. The combination of the two can then spit out a number. Not convinced? Yeah, me neither.

There are several others, several. Many of them have very favorable ratings. The problem I run into is I can’t find any information on comparisons that have been done to cuff readings. That’s a bit problematic in any event because if the app is giving you false data, what good is it? It’s not good, that’s the only correct answer, especially since blood pressure is a crucial part of living. Too low = bad, too high = bad. Like everything else there is a happy medium.

Think of it this way. Having some nice rib eye steak is good. Not having it ever is bad. Having it every night isn’t good because you’ll get sick of it, swear it off, and then never again enjoy the wonderful creation of rib eye steak, grilled and seasoned to perfection… oh man I think I need a steak.

In other words there is a happy medium. I don’t think anyone is really unaware of this in blood pressure. The problem though is the app. The interesting thing about the above mentioned app is there is a small fine print disclaimer stating that the app is for entertainment purposes only and not FDA approved. In other words the makers are admitting that you shouldn’t use it for actual blood pressure monitoring.

If a person were to base their decision to go see a doctor or to the ER based on an app like this because their readings were “normal” when in fact they aren’t, I’d be very worried about the outcomes for that patient, especially if they have hypertension.

I’m all for technology advancing and especially for the ability of phones and other devices to advance medical care. I think if something is useful and beneficial and if it can fit in your pocket then why not? We need to be careful though because sometimes, when we get into consumer mode (which is especially easy to do on a phone of tablet), we forget to double check what it is we’re actually getting. Health is something you don’t want to take casually like buying an app.