Author(s): Raghu Gopal
Healthcare and consumer wearables are crossing paths again. Apple's launch of its Watch Series 4 in September 2018 was a watershed for the industry, as the device had been cleared by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for its electrocardiogram and irregular rhythm notification functions. A consumer electronics product known for its ability to contribute to well-being was officially a medical device, of sorts.
Earlier this month, at CES 2019, another product contributing to this trend emerged (see CES 2019: Wearables).
Japan's Omron has begun sales of the first wearable blood pressure monitor to get the thumbs up from the FDA. With the premise that blood pressure should be checked on a regular basis rather than occasionally, HeartGuide is a wristwatch with clinical-quality measurement abilities. Omron says it has filed more than 80 new patents to create the device. This includes parts and technology that miniaturizes the components for traditional oscillometric measurement.
The device works in the same way as blood pressure cuffs at the doctor's office, through oscillometric technology, the FDA-recognized standard for checking blood pressure. HeartGuide uses an inflatable cuff within the watch band to take a blood pressure reading. This is what sets the device apart from other wearables that rely on sensor technology to provide only blood pressure estimates. The band inside the HeartGuide can be used to take manual readings, or even scheduled to do so automatically, including at night.
According to the American Heart Association, more than 100 million Americans have high blood pressure. That means close to one-third of the US population could potentially have a heart problem. Anyone with high blood pressure and concerns about the risk of stroke will welcome a device like this. It provides a complete picture of blood pressure over time and can be hugely helpful for healthcare professionals to initiate a line of treatment.
The HeartGuide watch, which is priced at $499, isn't really a smartwatch, but does also function as a fitness tracker that counts steps and tracks sleep patterns. It can also pair with a smartphone.
This is another tangent point between wearables and healthcare. Once proven, devices like this could be supplied by healthcare providers and insurance companies to prevent larger health problems. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.