Apps of the future: Monitoring your blood pressure from home after a stroke

A new smartphone app is being developed by BHF researchers to help people who have had a stroke monitor their blood pressure at home. Katherine Woods hears from the researchers about how it works, and how it's hoped this will benefit both patients and GPs.

Man using his phone to check his blood pressure

Professor Richard McManus and his team are developing an app that helps people who have had a stroke to monitor their blood pressure at home and send the results to their GP.

“Around a quarter of people who have had a stroke will go on to have another one within five years, and the most effective way to reduce this risk is to reduce high blood pressure,” Professor McManus explains.

Monitoring your own blood pressure at home isn’t just more convenient than going to the GP – it can have important benefits, too.

“Studies have found that self-monitoring helps people to lower their blood pressure more than if they were being monitored in the usual way by their GP,” Professor McManus says.

“We’ve found that self-monitoring results in people being prescribed additional medication so their blood pressure is better controlled, and importantly, even with greater medication use, there was no difference in side effects.”

However, there’s a lack of evidence to show whether self-monitoring is effective after a stroke. “We want to find out if it can help people who’ve had a stroke and also whether it’s cost-effective,” he says.

“We’re tailoring the system for people with movement and cognitive difficulties caused by their stroke and, if necessary, their carer can use it instead.”

Around a quarter of people who have had a stroke will go on to have another one within five years, and the most effective way to reduce this risk is to reduce high blood pressure

Professor McManus

The project at the University of Oxford is funded by the BHF and the Stroke Association. In collaboration with Cambridge, Edinburgh and Southampton universities, the researchers will recruit 610 patients – half will use the system for a year, with the rest receiving blood pressure readings in their GP clinic.

Those in the self-monitoring group will receive a blood pressure monitor and submit several readings each month via a smartphone app, website or text message.

“If someone gets a high reading at their GP, they might find reasons to ignore it, blaming it on a stressful day,” Professor McManus says.

“By taking multiple readings at home, patients get a more accurate picture of their blood pressure and are more likely to take the results seriously.”

If someone’s blood pressure is higher than it should be, the system guides them to take action to lower it, and they might be told to visit their doctor to adjust their medication dose or start additional treatments.

By getting people more involved in their own care, Professor McManus hopes to improve their blood pressure control and reduce their risk of stroke and heart disease. He also hopes it will free up time for patients, their carers and GPs.

“We’ll have results within the next few years,” he says. “If they are positive, we hope the system can be introduced in the NHS relatively quickly.”

 

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