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In this guest blog, Satish Misra, MD, reviews the "beautifully designed" QardioArm home blood pressure cuff, connected by Bluetooth to a smartphone or tablet. Misra is a cardiology fellow at Johns Hopkins Hospital and a founding partner and managing editor at iMedicalAppsiMedicalApps, has been edited for length.
Approximately one in three American adults have high blood pressure. Nearly half of adults with hypertension do not have their blood pressure under control.
There is now a growing body of data that strategies in which antihypertensive therapy is titrated remotely by patients, as well as clinicians, using home blood pressure monitoring can be effective. As a result, connected blood pressure monitors could potentially have a meaningful impact on health outcomes.
Since then, there's been a new entry into the field: QardioArm. After announcing the device at the start of the year, manufacturer Qardio of San Francisco raised nearly $150, 000 on the crowd-funding site Indiegogo. The device became available in the U.S. soon after receiving FDA clearance earlier this summer.
The folks at Qardio clearly paid a great deal of attention to the form factor with this device and really came up with a surprisingly unique design - not an easy accomplishment with a device that's been around for as long as the sphygmomanometer. The design features a low profile, with the cuff itself wrapping around a small and lightweight controller unit. As a result, it's exceptionally easy to take this device on the go or to store it at home when not in use.
It's not entirely intuitive how to apply the cuff to your arm; I did have to check the video on the company website to figure it out. After using it once or twice, it becomes far easier to apply than the usual cuff that accompanies a traditional automatic device. And changing the batteries is straightforward; just push the button on the inner surface of the controller unit to open the battery compartment.
All in all, I found the unique design of the QardioArm to be a nice reminder of the fact that medical devices can really be aesthetically pleasing and easy to use.
The device is controlled entirely through an app that is available for iOS and Android, the latter of which became available in early September. Opening the app for the first time, we are asked to register and provide some personal information, including the name of our physician. From then on, the app opens straight to the measurement screen.
When using QardioArm, I found the whole exercise to be quite quick in terms of the time it took to apply the cuff, open the app, and start a measurement. Granted, when doing it correctly, the whole process should be extended by a few minutes of rest prior to the measurement, and the two measurements should be separated by about at least a minute. That said, I found that even at 6 a.m. prior to my first cup of coffee, I could go from sitting down to starting a measurement in less than 30 seconds.
How It Stacks Up
- Medication reminder function: Not available
- Measurement reminder function: Available
- Incorporation of self-care messages: Yes
- Automated sharing with managing clinician: Not available
- Incorporating usability testing in design: Unable to assess
- Recommend validation against in-clinic measurement: Not done
As far as the general device features in comparison to some other options available:
- Compatibility: iOS and Android
- Native app: Yes, Qardio
- Third-party integration: None
- Validated: Unable to verify (using British Society of Hypertension and dabl databases)
- Cuff information: Single cuff size fits arm circumferences 22 to 37 cm (about 8 to 15 inches)
- Multiple users: guest feature available (does not save guest measurements)
- Price: $99.99
- Provide instruction in proper technique: Limited, could be more comprehensive and more prominently displayed
At the End of the Day
The QardioArm is a beautifully designed blood pressure cuff. The device itself is clever in its design, making it quite portable with a low profile. The app is both sleek and designed in such a way as to make the task of checking a blood pressure as easy as possible.
The functionality does have some limitations. For patients that use other self-tracking devices, such as a pedometer or connected weight scale, there are options out there that offer far better third party device integration. It would also be nice if the app reminded patients to bring their device into the clinic; that deficiency is certainly not unique to QardioArm though. Finally, the sharing functionality could be improved.
At $99, it comes in on the lower end of the cost spectrum. iHealth's blood pressure cuff is also $99 whereas Withings and Blip come in at $130 and $160, respectively. For the functionality, iHealth does have a more robust app in terms of functionality, but a price is paid in usability: it takes more steps to actually check a blood pressure.
At this point, the patients best served by this device would be those who:
- Need to minimize the number of "taps" required to get a blood pressure
- Don't use other self-tracking devices like pedometers
- Have a single person at home tracking blood pressure
- Travel or otherwise need a highly portable device
At the end of the day, QardioArm is an outstanding addition to the field of options available for connected blood pressure cuffs and definitely an option to consider when recommending a connected blood pressure monitor.