If 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:
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.