It might not be smart to trust the new blood pressure app on your phone

Blood pressure apps have become hugely popular, but how accurate are they? With a lot of these apps, your phone supposedly measures your blood pressure when you hold your finger over the camera. But doctors and scientists are skeptical about the accuracy and resulting conclusions of these apps. “It’s really in a research-and-development stage. It’s […]

Blood pressure apps have become hugely popular, but how accurate are they?

With a lot of these apps, your phone supposedly measures your blood pressure when you hold your finger over the camera. But doctors and scientists are skeptical about the accuracy and resulting conclusions of these apps.

“It’s really in a research-and-development stage. It’s not ready for clinical use. For now, we need to be careful that we are not using things that are inaccurate and could be potentially dangerous,” Dr. Nilay Kumar, an attending physician at the Cambridge Health Alliance in Cambridge, Massachusetts and a Harvard Medical School instructor told Reuters.

Researchers analyzed the top 107 apps for “hypertension” and “high blood pressure” that are available for download on the Google Play store and Apple iTunes and found that nearly three-quarters offered useful tools for tracking medical data. But they also found seven Android apps that claimed users needed only to press their fingers onto phone screens or cameras to get blood-pressure readings – claims that scientists say are bogus.

“This technology is really in its nascent stages, and it’s not quite ready for prime time,” Kumar said.

The U.S. FDA has not approved any of the blood pressure apps, the authors wrote. The study’s findings raise “serious concerns about patient safety” and reveal an “urgent need for greater regulation and oversight in medical app development.”

Dr. Karen Margolis, an internist and director of clinical research at HealthPartners Institute for Education and Research in Minneapolis agrees that there should be more research on these kind of apps before people take them seriously.

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“The idea that you’re going to be able to stick your finger on the camera of your smartphone and get an accurate blood pressure reading is pretty farfetched right now,” she told Reuters.

Margolis wasn’t involved with the current study, but she has studied devices to measure blood pressure previously. “There is virtually no information at all about how accurate these apps are,” she said. “It doesn’t sound to me like it’s ready for routine use in any way that medical decisions could be based on.”