Omron home blood pressure monitor 786N: Good hardware, bad app design

omron home blood pressure monitorIf there is one device that I think most older people should have at home, it’s a home blood pressure monitor. So a few years ago, I wrote an article for the Geriatrics for Caregivers blog with tips on choosing and using a home BP monitor.

At the time, I didn’t recommend a specific device because I hadn’t tried any. But recently I decided it would be much better if I could suggest a specific device to patients and families.

So I looked on Amazon and looked for a home BP monitor that could meet my specifications:

  • Measures BP at the arm
  • Easy to store, review, and share BP readings, which means some type of wireless data transmission capability
  • Smartphone/tablet not mandatory to use the device

When I wrote a blog post in April 2014 about my specifications, Omron did not seem to offer a device with wireless data transmission.

But earlier this year I noticed a Bluetooth-enabled Omron monitor on Amazon.  So I bought an Omron 786N earlier this summer and have been trying it out.

Pros & Cons of the Omron 786N Home Blood Pressure Monitor with Bluetooth

Here are my thoughts so far:

Pros:

  • Large legible display and supports two users.
  • Comfit arm cuff seemed easier to put on and correctly place than some other home arm cuffs I’ve come across.
  • TruRead feature is nice:omron wellness blood pressure app screenshot
    • This enables BP to be automatically checked 3 times in a row, which is the method used in the SPRINT BP trial. You can set the interval between checks; I set it for 60 seconds.
  • Once paired to the Omron Wellness app on my phone, it seemed to transmit readings easily. I was then able to view these online through an account at OmronWellness.com.

Cons:

  • By far my biggest complaint is: No option to add any comments to reading!
    • This means it’s not possible to note whether one was sitting/standing, which arm one used, whether one had recently changed meds, whether one was feeling sick that day, etc.
    • In fact, initially I wanted to edit the date on a reading (the device had the wrong date for one reading because I’d neglected to put in batteries and I guess it can’t keep time when unplugged although it reportedly will keep your readings). But you can’t edit the date/time on a reading. And you can’t make a note in the comments either, because there is no comments field in the app.
  • No easy integration with other health apps or personal health records.
    • Other Omron models apparently could connect to Microsoft Healthvault (with a cable connection to your computer) but this one cannot. So to import data into another program, you need to manually export the BP data as a .csv file and then import it elsewhere.
  • Problems with CSV export file:
    • The web version of Omron Wellness offers an export feature, but for me, this did not result in a usable CSV file. I took a look at the file and looked like the export combined numbers and letters in a single cell, which is a data management no-no. This export also does stupid things like present BP as “105/73” in a single cell, and then puts the associated pulse on the next line in the data set, instead of in another column on the same line.omron blood pressure monitor export
    • The only way I obtained a file that I could import to Healthvault was to email my results from the smartphone app. Weirdly, this generates an export that IS a workable CSV file. I was able to import this to Healthvault.omron home blood pressure monitor export after email

To summarize:

The hardware seems pretty good but the app could really use some improvements.

It seems I am not alone in being unimpressed with the app: per Google Play the app is rated 2/5 (1039 reviews).

I guess the company doesn’t think the app is very important to the users or to its bottom line, because usually the only apps that have such crummy ratings are apps that people have little choice in using (such as Axis 360, which contracts with schools and libraries to offer their digital content).

I also have to assume that there hasn’t been much demand for the export and data sharing features, or they would have fixed that as well.

Interestingly, this monitor is recommended by Consumer Reports and their verdict regarding the downsides of this device reads “This model had no discernible flaws in its performance.” (I guess checking on the data export is not part of their testing.)

So I am in disagreement with Consumer Reports: I think this device has some flaws. Still, I’m going to recommend this device for the time being. Here’s why:

  • The device itself seems to be good quality for a home monitor. The price of $65 seems reasonable.
  • This monitor could be used by an older person who doesn’t have a smartphone, or doesn’t want to regularly use it.
    • A family member or other caregiver can periodically get the data from the device, such as before a doctor’s visit. This is not as convenient as a device that automatically transmits readings to the cloud on its own, but this device is easier to set up than the BlipCare monitor and has better features as a BP monitor.
  • The app and online software can be updated and improved without users purchasing a new device. The hardware itself seems sound, although I haven’t tested it for more than a week so I can’t say if the connectivity is reliable over the long term.

Most of all, I am going to recommend this device for now because I haven’t come across a better option.

Let’s hope Omron improves the mobile app and web app soon.

In the meantime, if you know of a home monitor that meets my criteria and that you’d like to recommend, definitely let me know.

Comments

  1. You are lucky. I started using this meter on Sept 29 and am unable to transfer the readings from the app to my email address. It delivers the mail to the addressee, but all it contains is:

    • Leslie Kernisan, MD MPH says:

      That’s too bad. It does seem to be a spotty app; presumably the company hasn’t been very focused on maintaining and improving it.

  2. These Omron monitors are absolute crap. My first one crapped out in 3 days-was given another and this worked sluggishly and gave different reading within minutes of checking.Kept showing error messages and in frustration I smashed this crap!! Would not advise anyone to buy one!! Did complain about the first one and they did not have the courtesy to reply.So will buy something else.

    • Leslie Kernisan, MD MPH says:

      Hm. I don’t have high blood pressure so I don’t use a consumer device daily, and can’t speak to the longevity. However on Amazon this device has over 3800 reviews and averages 4.3/5 stars, with most complaints related to the app rather than to faulty hardware.

  3. Ralph Pullmann says:

    I really like the monitor (same one you tried) but the transfer of readings to the app will work fine for a while then stop transferring. I have to try several times to resync the Bluetooth connection. This is the first Bluetooth device I’ve worked with so don’t know how much is a phone problem and how much an app problem.

    • Leslie Kernisan, MD MPH says:

      Oh, that’s too bad. Do other reviewers on Amazon report a similar problem? I see a lot of complaints about the android app on Google play (app was just recently updated too) so I am guessing they need to work more on their app. You could also write to the company to ask for help. They are only going to take the app/software part seriously if enough consumers pressure them to do so.

      • Norman Kaplan says:

        I just purchased this monitor from Amazon and I have discovered that it is necessary to reconnect with Bluetooth after every morning’s measurements. The monitor does not appear to automatically reconnect. I find this somewhat unusual because my car (Toyota Avalon) automatically reconnects to my phone’s Bluetooth network when the car is powered on even if the phone is not unlocked. Naturally the phone must be turned on.

        I have found that it is necessary to first terminate the Phone App (swipe upward on the Iphone) and then initiate the 786’s pairing sequence before restarting the mobile phone’s Omron App.

        • Leslie Kernisan, MD MPH says:

          Yes, sounds like the app and related hardware have not been optimized. I would recommend you post your experience on Amazon as well; it might help other users and perhaps the company will eventually review the customer feedback. You could also try emailing the company with your feedback.

          Omron will only make this better if customers insist on it.

    • Bp786n user says:

      Get the updates version bp786n way better

  4. The app is a polished turd. the only way I can get data to my phone is to unpair the device, close the app, open the app, add the device back, close the app, open the app and bebin the transfer process. The app worked on my Droid Maxx but is a complete bust on my Galaxy 7.

    • Leslie Kernisan, MD MPH says:

      That’s too bad but I’m not surprised; Omron hasn’t seemed very interested in improving the app and I don’t know that they will be until they start hearing more from their customers. You might want to post your experience in the Amazon reviews and write to the company.

      Have you found anything that works better??

  5. I am a senior using BP786. I invested in it primarily for the feature/ability to send data via email to my doctor but it will not attach data from the Wellness App. It sends the email minus the data attachment – worse it does not show an alert per the failure to attach data!

    • Leslie Kernisan, MD MPH says:

      Oh, that’s too bad. I would recommend you report this in online reviews, and also consider writing to the company. They will only improve the app if enough people demand it.

      Have you tried using the Omron Wellness site online? It’s a bit clunky, but I think you can export your data into PDF reports and the such. You could then email those. Good luck!

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