The QardioArm is an Indiegogo-funded, iOS and Android-compatible, oscillometric smart blood pressure monitor that premiered at CES 2014 and became available for purchase over the summer. I had a chance to chat with Marco Peluso, Founder and CEO of Qardio, Inc to learn more about the company and their product before trying the device out for myself.
Michael Batista, Medgadget: What made you personally interested in mobile health technology?
Peluso: A few years ago, I was on the phone with my father when he experienced a stroke. Luckily, being in touch with him at the time, we were able to address the situation by getting him to a hospital quickly. What was frustrating was that while my father was treated, the doctor’s could not easily make a diagnosis on what had happened. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the end. Months later, my father was experiencing additional cardiovascular issues that prevented him from doing simple workouts like jogging. I found it astounding that medicine had still not developed the tools to allow a patient to be easily cognizant about their own health, particularly heart health.
Medgadget: What is Qardio’s vision?
Peluso: Our vision, from a product development point of view, is to develop products that provide value to both patients and their providers and, ideally, combine the best of both worlds. We want to empower patients to collect important data and make that data available to their doctors. Heart health is a great place to begin with this in mind given the 84 million patients in the US diagnosed with a heart-related medical condition.
Medgadget: What was the goal when you set out to make the QardioArm?
We wanted to provide a solution that fits into everyday life; a medical device that doesn’t look like a medical device. We wanted to build something you could see having with you at your desk, in your briefcase, or at the gym. So first we focused on the design and put an enormous amount of effort into the functionality and ease of use of our product from the very first time you have it in your hands. Want people to look at the QardioArm as a friendly, useful device that can help them feel better.
Along with our design goals, we delved into the key features we felt were important to take good recordings and add value to users. For example, when taking the blood pressure recording the app presents a calming image. Several clinical studies have shown that certain kinds of photos, like those with children, animals, and landscapes, are effective at calming patients down which is essential to capture an accurate blood pressure recording. We also focus on finding ways to engage doctors as well as a patient’s family and friends who might also be concerned about their loved one’s health.
Medgadget: How do you involve doctors, family, or friends?
Peluso: We do a few things that involve the doctor, family, or friends at the discretion of the patient. For doctors, we integrate them with their patients using the QardioArm with a dashboard where they can monitor the data being collected by their patients. We look at the data flow to make sure patients are not falsely reporting their measurements whether on purpose or by accident. For family and friends, we have a feature on our app that allows approved individuals to receive a notification when the patient records a measurement. The benefit of bringing these people into the data collection process is the opportunity for patients to get support from loved ones they trust.
Medgadget: Where do you see Qardio going next?
Peluso: The QuardioArm was our first important step towards deploying our vision to provide consumers with the ability to better monitor themselves and create a technology for doctors that provides an efficient, user-friendly way for their patients to capture medical data. With that in place, we’re now working on other devices related to heart health. Right now we’re excited for the upcoming release of QuardioCore, a mobile electrocardiogram scheduled to come out next Spring (2015).
QardioArm Product Review:
For this product review, I used the QardioArm with an iPhone 5. Of note, the QardioArm is FDA approved in the U.S. and CE marked in Europe.
Blood pressure monitors typically have two main hardware components: the rigid sensor housing and the cuff which wraps around the upper arm. While varying in their specific shapes, most rigid sensor housings are roughly the same size and weight. What varies more widely is the design of the cuff. Some products opt for a rigid cuff to make sliding the device around the arm easy, while others opt for a soft material to make the device collapsible. The QardioArm falls into the latter category, but differentiates itself with a cuff that completely wraps around the rigid housing making the collapsed product incredibly compact. The QardioArm is the most portable blood pressure monitor I have seen, its small size making the device ready for travel inside everything from a backpack to a purse.
Marco mentioned his team strove to differentiate their product by creating a tool that didn’t necessarily look like a medical device, and I think that was achieved. To be clear, QardioArm doesn’t sacrifice quality for looks. The device is easy to manipulate and put on with Velcro and magnetic fasteners, while small aspects of regular use like changing the battery and knowing when the device is on are all intuitive. The hardware is as robust as any blood pressure monitor I’ve used, with the added benefits of a great design that recognizes the needs of an active, mobile user.
Compared to other mobile health apps where users are expected to navigate a sea of features, the QardioArm clearly breaks down functions into Measurement, History, and Reminders. Measurement captures a recording and lets you turn on Visitor Mode so that when you hand your QardioArm to a friend to let them try it out, they won’t accidentally record their blood pressure as part of your history. As with most mobile health apps, History lets you see a graph of blood pressure and heart rate data trended over time and recall detailed information from individual recordings. Within the History, a calendar shows which days you did or did not take a reading. A location feature, turned on in Settings, presents a map indicating where you were geographically located when you captured different recordings. Both of these features I found simple yet compelling, especially the ability to see if my blood pressure was consistently higher in certain locations like at work versus at home. Reminders allow you to send yourself a notification if you want to take a recording at a certain time. Marco spoke about the value of connecting doctors, family, and friends to your data. The app makes it easy to create and organize these people into Followers, individuals approved to see your data, and Following, individuals whose data you have access to. I did not find a specific area to connect my doctor to my data, though Qardio’s website refers to a doctor dashboard which I did not have access to during my trial. Finally, basic graphics throughout the app clarify any lingering confusion about how to use the hardware correctly or troubleshoot hardware issues. The QardioArm’s app stands out in it’s overall simplicity and ease of use captured through a clean, intuitive design.
Setup, to my relief, was incredibly easy. Some mobile health products I have tried were so frustrating to pair with my mobile device that I ended up using them without their mobile compatibility. With the QardioArm, once the app was downloaded, I was prompted to touch my iPhone to the QardioArm device and that was it, the device was paired and has stayed paired ever since. There was no need for me to interact with my smartphone’s Bluetooth settings. In the event that you need to unsync the device to resync to a new smartphone, the app explains the process of doing so through a smartphone’s Bluetooth settings.
Use of the QardioArm product was incredibly easy. Physically, the device is easy to open and put on. Like most smart mobile blood pressure monitors, it incorporates one touch recording in the app to inflate the cuff and capture blood pressure and heart rate. Marco mentioned the use of calming images presented to the user while the device captures the recording as a differentiator. I was surprised to find I did enjoy having something relaxing to look at during the recording rather than just waiting for the device to finish. It was easy to link the app with my photo albums to watch a slideshow of images I have taken interspersed with images of landscapes and tranquil settings. What stood out most when using the QardioArm is the ease with which I was able to use the product’s features collectively. I liked the fact that I never found myself spending a significant amount of time in the app because I did not need much time to get exactly what I wanted out of it. I could capture a recording, make a note if necessary, check how it compared to my historical data, set a reminder for the next recording, and continue on with daily life.
The ability to connect with my provider using the app was not immediately clear. Designing a solution that appeals to doctors who already have a number of clinical data systems to manage is a challenge and I’m interested to see how Qardio plans to appeal to clinical users whose patients might be using a QardioArm. At this time, the QardioArm is not integrated into an electronic medical record system.
One advantage other mobile blood pressure monitors and their associated apps have over the QardioArm right now is there ability to sync with other mobile medical tools such as weight scales or pulse oximeters. Having multiple types of medical data captured on one platform is beneficial in correlating different measurements and allowing individuals to manage data from multiple connected devices on one app. Based on Qardio’s upcoming release of the QardioCore ECG, and Marco’s comments, Qardio’s trajectory appears to be taking them towards a deep focus on heart health and the technologies associated with capturing medical information about the cardiovascular system. Of note, is that Qardio recently integrated with Validic.
Overall, I had a very positive experience using the QardioArm. The product brings together an attractive modernized design, clean, efficient functionalities, and an intuitive ease of use that would make me recommend this to anyone looking for a new mobile blood pressure monitor. While the market of mobile health companies and technologies seems to be expanding at an alarming rate, products like the QardioArm prove that the pace of this growth has not yet caused a stagnation in mobile health technology innovation and design.
- Weight: 310g (0.69 lb)
- Dimensions: 140x68x38mm (5.5×2.7×1.5in) closed
- Power: 4x 1.5V batteries (AAA), comes with the device
- Measurement Range: 40-250mmHg for blood pressure, 40-200 beats/minute for pulse
- Accuracy: +/-3mmHg (+/-2% of readout value) for blood pressure, +/-5% of readout value for pulse
- Resolution: 1mmHg for blood pressure, 1 beat/minute for pulse
Product page: QardioArm…