Medical technology typically catches readers’ imaginations when it involves bionic limbs or theoretical projects to enhance human thought with machines. It is, however, the seemingly less impressive technology that’s likely to make a more immediate impact, with engineers taking advantage of smartphones to take accurate readings of injuries or medical conditions.
Accutension is far from being Star Trek’s tricorder, but it is a welcome alternative to the many blood pressure monitors on the market. Presenting its app as capable of taking more accurate blood pressure readings than standard at-home machines, Accutension just raised over $10,000 on Indiegogo.
The solution checks conventional blood pressure monitors’ (BPM) readings for accuracy. The app works by recording the blood pressure reading with a specially-designed stethoscope with sound charts and a recording of the beats themselves. These readings can then be emailed to a physician for review.
The inspiration for Accutension
The product is the creation of engineer Junfeng Zhao, who said he saw a friend lose his life on account of misdiagnosis due to bad readings from a BPM. Zhao explained that undiagnosed cases of hypertension are a major reason for augmenting or replacing at-home BPMs.
According to the company’s founder, the difference between standard home BPMs and his device is that the standard estimates blood pressure while his determines it. “If people use automatic BPMs or smart BPMs, the readings can be very different depending on the model they use,” Zhao told Geektime, “If these differences are not considered, the person could be misdiagnosed remotely.”
Although the product hasn’t been approved by the FDA yet, several versions of the product are being offered as part of the Indiegogo campaign to get user feedback. The hope is that manufacturing might start in October with shipping estimated for the holidays.
A late start but ahead of the curve
“Accutension makes the phone a part of the measurement instrument. The sounds are processed by the phone and the blood pressure value is determined by the phone,” Zhao told Geektime, “Our hardware just sends the raw data including the cuff pressure and the sounds to the phone for further process. The process power is from the phone’s CPU.”
The app is not the first to take a crack at this market, but it might be the first to try to integrate an electronic stethoscope into its system. Other ‘smart BPMs’ rely solely on cuffs like you might see in any doctor’s office, though the cuffs are specially designed for their respective blood pressure solutions.
Among those cuff-based options are the Withings Blood Pressure Monitor, iHealth BP5, QardioArm, Blip Blood Pressure Cuff and the VitaGoods VS-4000. All of these products have already hit the market, ranging in price from $100 up to $220. Most integrate with third-party health-monitoring apps, but some limit that to one third-party app.
The solution’s Indiegogo page preempts questions about how Accutension measures up against the competition, saying “Both Withings and iHealth use [an] oscillometric method, but Accutension uses [an] auscultatory method.”
Smarter personal health monitoring
Accutension was founded in 2012 and is located in Shanghai. It consists of a 7 person team. They produced their first prototype earlier this year. The company has started seeking funding for the next generation of the product’s development, but in the meantime, the Indiegogo campaign will pay for the shipping of the initial line of prototypes.
The company’s solution shows promise and could pave the way for smarter personal health monitoring, especially with its charting and recording features. The app’s design encourages users to share that data with a professional, meaning it not only personalizes the experience but doesn’t replace the need for a doctor.
Zhao is confident that Accutension will be able to take advantage of a boom in telehealth in the coming years. The challenge now is to create at-home solutions to match the tools available to a professional. “One major challenge is on the accessibility of high quality instruments or professional check at home,” concluded Zhao.
See Accutension in action: