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San Francisco-based Qardio Launches System to Help Make Medical Data Useful


Marisa Kendall

Mercury News

SAN FRANCISCO – Devices today let users collect minute-by-minute data on everything from how many steps they walk to how high their blood pressure is, and a San Francisco company is trying to organize this sea of information into something useful.

Qardio on Friday launched a new online system that automatically sends readings from its home blood pressure monitor to a doctor's computer and analyzes those readings to determine which patients need medical attention. It's intended to save doctors time they otherwise would spend combing through long lists of patient-generated numbers.

"The doctor can literally look after an unlimited number of patients, and with a glance he will know exactly which patients need him most and which are doing fine," said Martina Janeckova, Qardio's head of marketing and vice president of global outreach.

Wearable fitness devices – such as Fitbit wristbands that track steps walked, calories burned and sleep patterns – have become an exercise staple for many. But more medically focused devices also have gained ground as a way for people to manage long-term health problems. For example, Massachusetts-based Withings makes scales, blood pressure monitors and thermometers that work with a user's smartphone. Mountain View-based iHealth's product list includes a smart blood sugar monitor for diabetics.

Many products allow users to send that data directly to their doctor, often via email. But the mountains of information they generate can be more of a burden than blessing as far as medical professionals are concerned, said Dr. Wanda Filer, a Pennsylvania doctor and president of the American Academy of Family Physicians.

"Right now the big problem we have is we have an awful lot of data that's coming in, and it's not always usable data," she said.

The new QardioMD system automatically sends data from its devices to an online platform that analyzes the numbers and sorts patients into three groups -- green for patients with normal readings, yellow for patients in the middle and red for patients who may be in danger and need a doctor's attention. Patients who are doing well may be able to have fewer face-to-face visits, while patients who show troubling readings can get immediate care, Janeckova said.

Qardio, founded in 2012 by Marco Peluso and Rosario Iannella after Peluso's father suffered a stroke, also sells a smart scale and plans to launch a wearable heart monitor later this year -- both of which will be compatible with QardioMD.

The company's $99 wireless blood pressure monitor is a small, sleek box attached to a cuff that squeezes the patient's upper arm. The patient reads his or her measurements using the company's smartphone app.

QardioMD also integrates with some records systems used by hospitals and doctor's offices, allowing data to go straight into a patient's existing medical file. For Filer, that integration is key.

"Otherwise, quite frankly, it becomes busy work," she said. "And it becomes difficult to figure out who's going to sit down and go through this."

Doctors often ask patients with high blood pressure to take their measurements regularly, Filer said, and some, especially younger patients, may find a device like Qardio to be helpful. But an app and an algorithm can't replace face-to-face visits, she said.

Experts also have questioned the accuracy of some at-home monitors. A study at the Ottawa Hospital in Canada found home monitors may be inaccurate 5 to 15 percent of the time, Harvard Medical School's health blog reported in 2014.

Filer also has seen inaccuracies.

"There's times that what we get in the office with our equipment that is calibrated is wildly different than what they're getting at home," she said.

Janeckova said Qardio's devices are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to ensure accuracy.

"We are first and foremost a medical company," she said.

Copyright 2016 - Mercury News

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