No matter up to what zenith technology might reach, recently, a small experiment suggested that a smartphone app definitely, might not be an effective method of measuring blood pressure in pregnant women.
Researchers have in fact tested an experimental smartphone app that uses the phone’s camera to monitor blood flow in the index finger with each heartbeat. Then they have compared results from the app to traditional blood pressure measurements taken on 96 occasions in 32 pregnant women.
So, basically, the goal of the study was to see if the smartphone app could produce blood pressure readings close to those recorded with a traditional blood pressure cuff. However, it seems that the app has failed to meet this goal often enough to be considered an accurate test of blood pressure.
To this, senior study author, Dr. Thilo Burkard of the University Hospital Basel in Switzerland, added that “Especially during pregnancy, a correct diagnosis of pregnancy-related hypertension is crucial to tailor individual therapy”.
However, this questioned app was never released, as pointed out by Burkard. However, these results suggest that pregnant women should be more cautious about relying on other apps they download, that use a similar method to measure blood pressure.
To this, an email by Burkard added that “Relying on these apps may lead to the situation that women with high blood pressure may not seek advice from their physician since they may measure normal values with the app and women with normal blood pressure may be concerned about measuring elevated pressure with the app”.
Researchers have noted in the journal, Hypertension, that high blood pressure is one of the leading causes of death among pregnant women worldwide, accounting for 14 percent of maternal mortality.
The study authors have stated that early diagnosis and treatment can reduce the risk of serious complications and deaths related to high blood pressure during pregnancy. For this, reliable, simple and easily accessible tools are needed to help women detect high blood pressure at an early stage.
In the tests by Burkard’s team, the study found that app’s readings deviated from those taken with the blood pressure cuff at least half of the time by at least 5 mmHg when measuring the top number, known as systolic blood pressure. Now, in 64 out of 96 readings, the differences were within 15 mmHg.
Now, pregnant women typically get their blood pressure checked with a blood pressure cuff at each doctor’s visit, and they might have more regular checkups if they’re diagnosed with high blood pressure.
To this, researchers have noted that, since 2014, the number of available smartphone apps measuring blood pressure and pulse rate has surged. Apps designed to use the smartphone camera to check blood pressure are very popular, and some of them, in fact, have been downloaded by a million or more users.
However, the study authors have noted here that, none of these apps have been validated with published clinical trials. For instance, one app was removed from the market after it failed to meet accuracy goals in a trial.
Kumanan Wilson, a scientist at Ottawa Hospital Research Institute in Canada who wasn’t involved in the study, sent an email which read that “There is substantial value in developing similar applications that are effective in determining blood pressure in pregnant women because of convenience and ease of access. Evaluations such as the one conducted in this study are uncommon but are needed for consumers to have confidence in the information they are receiving as it can influence healthcare decisions. In the case of high-risk populations, such as pregnant women with hypertension, this is particularly relevant.”
Finally, Wilson concluded that, even though the app in the study failed to achieve this goal, the research is still critical to helping scientists eventually come up with an app that works.