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Voice-Enabled Cellular Blood Pressure–Monitoring System Encourages Patients to Make Healthy Decisions

The Cuff to Cloud experience will instantly and effortlessly upload readings to the company’s database, which will then deliver a real-time and personalized message to its members.

Image courtesy of Livongo

“Despite all the advances in digital health and how technology is applied in healthcare, the daily life for a person with a chronic condition hasn’t improved much at all in the past few decades,” said Livongo Chief Product Officer Amar Kendale in an interview with MD+DI. “That is because the U.S. healthcare system has responded to the chronic-condition epidemic by giving health consumers more in terms of data, devices, and medications, but none of that is really connected and applied in how a person actually lives.” He said that more is not always better, and may just create “noise” for the patients.

To silence this noise, Livongo has recently launched what it calls Applied Health Signals, which is a new category of technologies and capabilities that include data science, behavior change, and clinical impact that work together to benefit the company’s members. Membership is obtained through a patient’s employer or healthcare plan.

One of the company’s newest technologies is its voice-enabled blood pressure–monitoring system, which Livongo is working on getting into the hands of its members, said Kendale.

“When a member sits down to check their blood pressure, they hit the power button to begin checking. After that process is complete, their reading is automatically transferred from the device to the Livongo database. We call that process Cuff to Cloud,” said Kendale.

Once the reading reaches the cloud, it is processed through Livongo’s AI+AI, (which stands for aggregate, interpret, apply, and iterate) engine, where the company uses advanced data science to offer the member a personalized “health nudge.” “Then, we use voice technology, delivered through our partnership with Amazon Lex, to deliver [to] the member their blood pressure reading and a personalized health nudge in real time,” Kendale continued, adding that health nudges are short, encouraging, actionable messages that help members take their next healthy action. “They give members positive reinforcement on their checking patterns, provide insights about patterns we observe, and refer members to product features, among other use cases.”

“By enabling them with voice technology, we can allow them to sit in a comfortable place, check their blood pressure, and automatically hear their blood pressure reading with health tips, without having to do anything else,” said Kendale.

Recent research points to encouraging results for users of the technology. In the study, people with both diabetes and uncontrolled high blood pressure who used the Livongo for hypertension solution saw significant declines in their blood pressure within six weeks.

All study participants received a blood pressure monitor and cuff that connected wirelessly with Livongo’s smartphone app. When participants measured their blood pressure with their smartphones nearby (which they did an average of four times a week), the readings were automatically transmitted to Livongo’s computer servers.

After each reading, participants could open the app to review the results and get tips on managing their blood pressure. The app also enabled them to compare their blood pressure readings over time, schedule a call with a health coach, and share their results with family members, friends, or healthcare providers.

At six weeks, study participants’ systolic blood pressure number declined by an average of 5.4 mm Hg, and diastolic pressure readings declined by 3.5 mm Hg on average compared with their levels at study entry.

The study did not include a control group that received usual care for high blood pressure, however the company has plans to conduct a trial in which patients are randomly assigned to either use the app or receive usual care.

Susan Shepard

Susan Shepard

Susan Shepard is a freelance contributor to MD + DI.

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