Popular mobile app for monitoring blood pressure not accurate, researchers warn

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Baltimore – “Instant Blood Pressure” – a popular mobile app designed to measure blood pressure – is inaccurate, according to a study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Medicine.

The mobile app has been downloaded more than 100,000 times and still operates on some cell phones even though it can no longer be purchased. To use the app, individuals put their smartphone on their chest and place a finger on the phone’s camera lens. The app then provides users with a blood pressure reading.

To test the app’s accuracy, researchers used an automated blood pressure monitor to twice record the resting blood pressure of 85 participants who were patients or staff members of Johns Hopkins Medicine clinics. The participants also used the mobile app to calculate their blood pressure two times on the same day. Body mass, race and ethnicity, which impact blood pressure, were recorded as well.

Results showed that nearly 80 percent of the participants for whom the automated monitor detected high blood pressure (at least 140/90) were given a normal blood pressure reading by the app. The researchers said they were unsure how the app reached its reading, adding that the best way to measure blood pressure is to use an inflating cuff that goes around the brachial artery in the arm.

“We think there is definitely a role for smartphone technology in health care, but the results of our study speak to the need for scientific validation and regulation of these apps before they reach consumers,” Dr. Timothy B. Plante, study author and a fellow in the Division of General Internal Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said in a press release.

The study was published online March 2 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

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