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Study: High-tech blood pressure monitors don’t outperform standard cuffs

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As it turns out, none of this seems to have any benefit,” said Mark Pletcher, M.D., corresponding author of the new study. ((Chompoo Suriyo/Shutterstock))

Newer models offer digital readouts and smartphone connectivity, and have even begun ditching cuffs in favor of slimmer sensors.

But in a rare exception to the usual rules of technological progress, a new study published this week in JAMA Internal Medicine found that these high-tech bells and whistles did not contribute to any significant improvement in clinical outcomes.

The study authors concluded that “enhanced self-monitoring of blood pressure using a device paired with a connected smartphone app is no more effective than standard self-monitoring.”

FDA clears cuffless blood pressure monitor similar to LiveMetric smartwatch

A study led by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) randomly sent either a basic blood pressure monitor or a Bluetooth-enabled version — both developed by Omron Healthcare — to a group of more than 2,000 people across the US. who were trying to lower their blood pressure.

The study team took special care to recruit a diverse group of participants because, as a UCSF press release stated, “unequal management of hypertension plays a significant role in the disproportionate impact of cardiovascular disease on black communities.” Ultimately, more than 30% of the resulting pool identified as black or Hispanic.

Participants who received the upgraded device were able to link their personal smartphones to the Omron Connect app, which sends reminders for regular measurements, tracks these measurements and organizes them into a single report – complete with data visualization, analysis and notes – that can be automatically shared with doctors user.

Bright pilot study of wearable blood pressure sensors by Apple partner Rockley Photonics

At the end of the six-month study period, those using the basic cuff reduced their blood pressure by an average of 10.6 mmHg, compared to a 10.8 mmHg drop in those using the hi-tech device, indicating no statistically significant difference between these by two. The improved technology did not win out in terms of usability either, as study participants reported about equal satisfaction with both technologies.

These results prove that — at least for now — there’s no need to shell out big bucks for a smartphone-connected home monitor that can sell for as much as $140. Instead, people may simply choose the monitor style they personally prefer, the researchers concluded.

As it turns out, none of this appears to have any benefit,” Mark Pletcher, M.D., corresponding author of the study and professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at UCSF, said in the report.

Next, Pletcher and his team plan to see if high-tech approaches aimed at replicating this wiring are more effective at controlling blood pressure. According to the UCSF report, the researchers are particularly focused on smartwatch-like monitors that would periodically take pictures without requiring any action from the wearer.

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