Aura Life, the makers of the popular smartphone blood pressure app Instant Blood Pressure, probably made a mistake when they initially used the well-known medical research complex Johns Hopkins in their marketing campaign.
Aura Life boasted their app “uses a patent-pending process developed by a team from the Johns Hopkins University—a world leader in health innovation.”
Baffled, Johns Hopkins sent Aura Life a cease-and-desist letter, but they also decided to do some research into how well the blood pressure app performed.
The researchers recently released their findings that showed the Instant Blood Pressure app, which uses an “unconventional” and “unvalidated” method to measure blood pressure, was wildly inaccurate with wrong measurements 8 out of 10 times!
For a person with high blood pressure, a reading of normal blood pressure could be dangerously misleading.
Aura Life has removed its Instant Blood Pressure app from the app stores, but its webpage features a rebuttal to Johns Hopkins’ negative review.
On March 1, 2016 our team became aware of a research letter titled “How Well Did an Instant Blood Pressure App Work?” that was published by JAMA Internal Medicine on March 2, 2016. A thorough review has been conducted of the study led by Timothy B. Plante, MD of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Alarmingly, it become immediately apparent that critical inaccuracies and deficiencies were present in how this study was conducted and the way its data analysis was performed. Here we present critical facts that the public needs to be aware of.
So now Aura Life is accusing Johns Hopkins of being wildly inaccurate.
Read the page for Aura Life’s defense of its product, but basically they say their app works if it’s used as intended. That is, “for recreational purposes only.”
Who takes their blood pressure just for fun??
They also have the typical disclaimer: Instant Blood Pressure is not to be used as a medical device. It is not intended for use in the diagnosis of disease, conditions, or in the treatment or prevention of disease.
This is the same generic disclaimer used on supplements and herbal remedies that aren’t tested and regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
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Even though it’s no longer available to download, the researchers worry about the people who have already bought the app (it cost $4.99) and are still using it, or have downloaded similar blood pressure apps.
Aura Life’s app, and others like it, basically turns a smartphone into a Class II medical device, but without any oversight from the FDA.
Just adding a disclaimer that it’s not really a medical device and should only be used for fun is not enough. In my experience, too many people ignore or don’t read instructions and warnings.
Most of the blood pressure apps I see in iTunes and Google Play are for tracking your blood pressure, rather than actually measuring it, and I think that’s useful.
Some of the apps do work with blood pressure measuring devices—cuffs that use your upper arm, wrist or finger—that are regulated by the FDA.
When buying a blood pressure cuff, choose one that uses the upper arm. Devices that use your wrist or finger are not as accurate, according to the American Heart Association.
I wonder if Aura Life’s rigorous denial of Johns Hopkins’ findings means they will just do some damage control and then put their app back on the market?
Regardless, I would not recommend using the Instant Blood Pressure app if you are serious about accurately measuring and keeping track of your blood pressure.
Blood pressure cuffs compatible with smartphone apps: