Pandemic or Not, Hypertension Management Can Stay at Home

Emily Willingham

January 13, 2021

Patients with hypertension and the doctors who treat them have powerful new digital tools to add to their management toolkits.

One is an actual kit from Omron Healthcare, Inc., that allows patients to share data with their clinicians without ever leaving home. On the receiving end, the data can be integrated into existing electronic medical record systems or used with Omron's doctor dashboard.

The other tool is Omron's new Connect 2.0 mobile app, which consumers can use to consolidate blood pressure and other health data from any Omron product, including its wearable blood pressure monitor. They also can synch it with Apple and Google health apps.

Omron Healthcare previewed its new VitalSight kit and new mobile app at the Digital Health and Consumer Electronics Show, which was held online this year.

The products are part of the company's mission of "Going for Zero" heart attacks and strokes, Ranndy Kellogg, Omron president and CEO, said at a press conference. The United States is far from zero, with 116 million adults diagnosed with hypertension. More than 37 million of them have uncontrolled stage 2 hypertension and increased risk for heart attack and stroke.

Jeffrey Ray

The COVID-19 pandemic has likely worsened the problem, as patients have avoided in-person preventive care or delayed emergency care. Tools that allow patients to manage their care from home are exactly what are needed for a system that's overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases, said Jeffrey Ray, Omron's executive director of business and technology. Missing appointments "is really scary for those with high blood pressure," he noted, "and we felt it was our obligation to create a remote monitoring system for hypertension."

Clinicians can ship the VitalSight kit straight to patients. The kit contains a blood pressure monitor and data hub preset to share a patient's data directly with their electronic medical record. On the office side, physicians can set thresholds for off-target readings to trigger a notification. Patients just have to measure their blood pressure using the arm cuff. The kit components, which are "plug and play," take care of the rest.

Stephen Persell, MD, director of the center for Primary Care Innovation in the Institute for Public Health and Medicine at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, said that Medicare supports remote physiologic monitoring and management. Persell partnered with Omron to field test the kits and said that even before COVID-19 struck, "we realized the burden of multiple office visits" to manage hypertension. With data coming in through the VitalSight connection, he said, "we can modify treatment and make multiple small changes and patients can avoid trips to the office."

"I'm one of those who takes my blood pressure in the grocery store if I'm somewhere and I see a blood pressure cuff," said Sharon Watkins Jones, a political consultant in Houston, who has hypertension. With the pandemic, "I haven't had the opportunity to check my blood pressure in the way that I normally do." A kit like this, she said, would solve that problem.

Jane Sarasohn Kahn, a health economist who runs the Health Populi blog, sees the product as bringing everybody into alignment for the key mission of better patient health and, for now, keeping them out of the clinic as much as possible without harms. "We love our doctors, but we don't need to see them all the time," she says.

The new app Omron previewed, Complete 2.0, combines available health data for the consumer and tracks trends. The company calls it a "personal heart health coach." Users who change their behaviors and show improvements on the app's "heart health report cards" can exchange app rewards for real-world retailer gift cards.

Jones said that as a consumer, she'd love something that would "read the signs and nag me one way or the other."

Jane Sarasohn Kahn reports receiving honoraria from Omron Healthcare, Inc., for her time in recording her remarks.

Digital Health Conference and Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2021. January 11-12, 2021.

Emily Willingham is a freelance journalist and scientist with a bachelor's degree in English and a PhD in biology. She reports on health topics, including infectious disease and hepatology.

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