There are lots of solid therapeutic approaches to treating hypertension (high blood pressure), and they range in cost and complexity all the way from free and easy up to expensive and elaborate. While it might cost tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to treat a heart attack, it's much simpler and cheaper to focus on prevention through diet or medication -- plus monitoring blood pressure every day to make sure the plan is working as expected.
Cheap and easy sounds good, but getting it done is another matter. "When dealing with patients and asking them to make a lifestyle change, one of the biggest problems is compliance," says Dr. Andrew Brandeis, a San Francisco physician. "I can either give you a pill for your blood pressure or tell you to eat less salt, and one of them is going to be easier than the other -- one of them is better than the other. But getting people to exercise more, to eat less salt; it's not always easy to get them to do what they need to do."
That's why Brandeis is excited about the new iHealth blood pressure monitoring system, introduced today in the runup to CES; competitor Withings has also announced a similar product. Both cuffs provide a new level of convenience to the digital blood pressure monitor market, enabling far more granular intraday measurements that let you know exactly how various daily activities (a meal, a cup of coffee) affect your inner equilibrium.
Manufactured by a division of China's Andon Health, the US$99.95 iHealth unit is an iPhone/iPad dock that's roughly the size of a coffee cup. Running on either AC or battery power and connected to the included inflatable blood pressure cuff, the device allows patients to measure, track, send and share their blood pressure results with the companion app (not yet on the store, and not to be confused for this similarly-named app). The dock will charge the iPhone when plugged in, but can do up to 100 readings on a fully charged battery.
Instead of a docking station, the $129 Withings unit goes with an iPhone cable directly attached to the blood pressure cuff. This leads to a more compact form factor, but also might cause trouble if the cable frays or is otherwise damaged in use. The Withings cuff also comes with its own monitoring app, and the company expects to leverage the same data-sharing API used with its WiFi Body Scale product.
When I spoke to Brandeis and iHealth Lab CEO Yi Liu a couple of weeks ago, both were enthusiastic about the potential of personal health management peripherals for the iPhone. Considering the popularity of exercise and diet apps for the platform, the opportunity is clear. There are already plenty of USB-connected blood pressure monitors on the market, but the added portability and convenience of an iOS-linked unit makes it that much easier to achieve the daily measurements needed for effective control and disease management. Removing the blood pressure check from the clinical setting also avoids "white-coat syndrome," where patients read high due to anxiety or other environmental causes in the doctor's office.
I got a chance to try the iHealth cuff for myself. On first measurement it was reading unusually high; Dr. Brandeis suggested I reseat the cuff higher on my arm, breathe easily and avoid talking or moving during the measurement. On the second try, it nailed my usual resting pressure (a healthy 110/74, I am pleased to report). I refrained from Tweeting my pressure or emailing my doctor, although Brandeis pointed out that many lifestyle improvements like smoking cessation are made easier and more effective through the power of social networking.
If you're a hypertension sufferer, an acolyte of self-measurement health approaches or just someone who would like a bit more insight into how your body reacts to inputs like stress, caffeine or a double burger with bacon, one of these new iOS-friendly monitors may be just right for you. Both should be available in the next few weeks, with the iHealth model eventually showing up in Apple retail stores.
Full press releases below.
Joint hardware and app solution lets users test, track, and graph their blood pressure from home
LAS VEGAS, NV (CES) – January 4, 2010 – iHealth Lab Inc., a pioneering designer and manufacturer of digital personal healthcare products, today announced the launch of the iHealth Blood Pressure Monitoring System for iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. Comprised of a hardware dock, blood pressure arm cuff and iHealth App, this breakthrough product lets users self-monitor their blood pressure from the convenience of their home, and share the results with friends, family and most importantly, their doctor.
A recent report from Kaiser Permanente found that patients doing self-monitoring of their vitals were 50 percent more likely to have their blood pressure under control.
"Empowering people to manage their personal healthcare is our passion," said Yi Liu, CEO, iHealth Lab. "The future of health management starts with the individual. By identifying how daily activities affect one's vitals like blood pressure and heart rate, people can be more proactive about their personal healthcare."
How It Works
The iHealth Blood Pressure Monitoring System lets users measure and track their blood pressure and heart rate from the convenience of their iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. The system comes with a blood pressure arm cuff and a portable, battery-powered dock allowing for quick and easy set up. The dock also doubles as a charging station for all three iOS devices.
The companion iHealth App includes an easy-to-use interface with data and graphics that allow the user to view their blood pressure numbers, track them over time, and run reports. Users can easily access previously recorded data sets, view patterns by date and time of day and create custom graphs and charts. Users can also instantaneously share the results with their doctor, or loved ones.
"Regularly monitoring blood pressure in a relaxed, consistent setting gives users the most reliable information on the status of their cardiovascular health," said Dr. Andrew Brandeis, a practicing physician at Care Practice in San Francisco. "More important, iHealth-for the first time-reveals trends and fluctuations in the data and enables the user to easily share the information with their doctor."
Availability, Compatibility and Price
The iHealth Blood Pressure Monitoring System (battery-powered docking station and blood pressure arm cuff) is available for $99.95 from iHealth99.com.
The companion iHealth App is available for free from the App Store on iPhone, iPod touch and iPad, or at www.iTunes.com/AppStore.
Withings Launches World's First iPhone Connected Blood Pressure Monitor with Online Monitoring and Measurement Storage This revolutionary new product created by Withings, dramatically improves access to BP measurements for users worldwide Las Vegas, Nevada - January 4, 2011- CES/ North Hall/ Booth #3619- With hypertension affecting almost 25% of the world population, blood pressure measurement can help to save lives. However, until now, taking your blood pressure required the use of complex devices with multiple manipulations, mathematical operations and data recording procedures. Self-measurement has been recommended by the medical profession for many years, but no one had yet found concrete solutions to expand its use.
This is why Withings chose to rethink the blood pressure monitor and turn it into an attractive, user-friendly connected device.
With the Withings Blood Pressure monitor, measuring and understanding your blood pressure couldn't be easier. All data is recorded and saved to the user's secure online space for easy measurement access and retrieval through their iPhone, iPad or other screen connected to a user-friendly interface.
Self-measurement is made simple by the Withings Blood Pressure monitor. It improves the reliability of readings and offers the option to share them with relatives, healthcare providers or medical professionals.
Through the Withings API, specialist partners can interface with the platform to offer additional services, as Withings has already proven with its WiFi Body Scale and partners such as Google Health, Microsoft HealthVault and numerous health & sports coaching websites such as DailyBurn.com, RunKeeper.com, FitOrbit.com, gymtechnik.com, aujourdhui.com, Strands.com, Danholt4mac.com, Jogmap.de...and many more.
Says Withings co-founder Cédric Hutchings: "Apple revolutionized the world of smartphones by making them more user-friendly than ever before. By adding connectivity to high-tech devices, we simplify their usage and enrich them with extra services. Our goal is to take the drama out of using devices that can promote healthier lifestyles for all. We have achieved this with our Withings body scale, and are now repeating our success with the Withings Blood Pressure monitor".
The Withings Blood Pressure monitor works together with an iPhone / iPad / iPod touch. The Withings Blood Pressure monitor, priced 129 euros or $129 US, will be available in January, 2011 on www.withings.com