I love mobile technology — it’s just one of the reasons I started iMedicalApps. There are so many ways mobile technology can be used for patient care, and we’ve highlighted this on a weekly basis.

You can use mobile technology for real time medical data gathering, to explain complex pathology with easy to understand multimedia for patients, to transmit EKG data to an emergency room while en route to the hospital, and a litany of other things.

But there are obvious limitations to mobile medical technology as well, especially in regards to changing lifestyle and behavior, something that has plagued medical professionals since the dawn of preventive medicine.

Last week at CES (Consumer electronic show), two blood pressure peripherals for the iPhone from competing companies received significant attention. CNN even listed the devices as a “top 10” buzz worthy device that was unveiled at CES.

One of the devices is from a start-up in California, iHealth Labs, and they unveiled the iHealth Blood Pressure Dock. The company touts the product being used for daily blood pressure measurements, and a physician spokesman for the company states how patients will measure their blood pressure more frequently now since the device is tethered to their phone — a device that gets frequently.

To be clear, this is a interesting and fascinating technology.  You can plug a blood pressure cuff into your phone, an app opens up, automatically recording and tracking your blood pressure, and also giving you the option to Twitter or Facebook out your recordings — the thought being you can use social networking “peer pressure” as an incentive to lower your readings.  More importantly, you can e-mail the results directly to your physician.

So this means patients surely will check their blood pressure more frequently — not necessarily, and more than likely no.

First of all, if you have a patient that can afford an iPhone and the accompanying data plan, plus the more expensive blood pressure cuff, approximately $100 — you already have a patient that is more likely to be empowered.  Lets look at the actual research data behind this to make more sense of why this would have minimal impact on compliance.

Data shows that just over 30% of iPhone users are above the age of 45.  So out of the total iPhone population, you are looking at approximately 30% of users who would actually be in the age range to use the device — and that’s giving a favorable age bracket.  In reality, the 55 or over age group would be the real target age group, only 14% of the iPhone demographic.

Now lets look at more data about the iPhone and affluence.  iPhone users as a whole are more affluent than not only the normal population, but in comparison to other smart phone owners — with an average household income of $100,000.  There is data that shows compliance to physician recommendations, such as medications and blood pressure checks is less in lower income households.  Some of the reasons being access to health care and expensive of medications.

So basically, those who would be in a position to buy these iPhone blood pressure peripherals are more likely to be compliant patients anyways, and would most likely be checking their blood pressure as prescribed.  Obviously, there will be anecdotal examples that will counter this, but from a populations approach — you most likely wouldn’t see any significant change.

So from a preliminary standpoint, these blood pressure cuffs are very interesting and a very niche product — but certainly not the game changers they are being touted as by many news sites.

iPhone blood pressure peripheral details from company websites:

iHealth

Withings

Sources: (Please refer to links provided in story for sources of data, hyperlinks are also given below)

http://tech.fortune.cnn.com/2010/02/25/6-ways-iphone-and-android-users-differ/

http://www.mediapost.com/publications/?fa=Articles.showArticle&art_aid=132409

http://www.jstor.org/pss/3592905