Mobile health technologies accurately measure new cardiovascular ‘vital signs’

One of the major challenges to preventing and treating cardiovascular disease, which accounts for an estimated 31 percent of deaths worldwide, is monitoring patients when they are outside of a doctor’s office.

July 02, 2018


The emergence of mobile health technologies, such as activity trackers, sleep monitors, electronic blood pressure devices and others offer the new ability to track both traditional cardiovascular risk factors (e.g. blood pressure) and other factors that increase a person’s risk for cardiovascular disease (e.g. poor sleep), at home, and at high sampling rates. 

A study by researchers at the Scripps Translational Science Instituteprovides new evidence that these cardiovascular risk factors can be accurately measured and tracked independently outside of a physician’s office using new mobile health technologies, while requiring minimal training of participants. The study was published in the journal Hypertension.     

“Identifying new ways of monitoring cardiovascular risk factors is critical to reducing the burden of this disease and strains on healthcare systems across the globe,” says first author and principal investigator Brian Modena, assistant professor of Molecular Medicine at Scripps Research and a clinical researcher at the Scripps Translational Science Institute.

“Our study combined multiple health tracking devices to holistically assess cardiovascular risk factors outside of the clinical setting along with demographics, medication adherence and stress levels,” Modena added. “These measurements were found to closely match national averages or prior studies performed in very controlled clinical settings, supporting their accuracy and reliability.”    

Cardiovascular health has traditionally been assessed by measuring vital signs such as weight, blood pressure and heart rate. However, other factors such as sleep duration, physical activity levels, pulse wave velocity (a measure of arterial wall stiffness) and various lifestyle risk factors also influence or predict cardiovascular outcomes.

The study was conducted in collaboration with Withings, a consumer electronics company, that identified eligible study participants via a company database of owners of Withings health tracking devices. A total of 255 individuals were enrolled and asked to measure blood pressure, heart rate, pulse wave velocity and weight 2 days a week for 17 weeks. All measurements were transmitted wirelessly through a smartphone app to a secure database. 

This was also the first study to successfully assess and track pulse wave velocity outside of a controlled clinical setting using new ‘smart’ weight scales. Pulse wave velocity is an important indicator of cardiovascular risk that is being increasingly used in clinic practice to predict risk of cardiovascular disease.   

“With high adherence, satisfaction and participant engagement, this proof-of-concept study required minimal study personnel and no participant training, thereby making it likely scalable to much larger populations,” says Steven Steinhubl, director of digital medicine at the Scripps Translational Science Institute and senior author on the study.

Other authors on the study, “Advanced and Accurate Mobile Health Tracking Devices Record New Cardiac ‘Vital Signs’,” were Otmane Bellahsen of Nokia; Angela Chieh of Withings-Nokia Health; Danielle Dufek of University of California, Berkeley; and Nima Nikazad, Nathan Parikh, Gail Ebner and Eric Topol of The Scripps Research Institute.

The study was supported by funding provided by Withings, the National Institutes of Health NCATS Clinical Translational Science Awards (grants 5KL2TR001112 and 5UL1TR001114), and an NHLBI award (grant 1K23HL144418-01). It was also supported by the All of Us Research Program (grant 1U24OD023176). 


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