Pregnant women with high blood pressure can safely monitor their condition at home and avoid numerous hospital check-ups, a study by London doctors revealed today.
About one in 10 expectant mothers have hypertension which, in a minority of cases, can lead to pre-eclampsia. The condition can be life-threatening to mother and child.
Medics at St George’s hospital in Tooting developed a smartphone app which they trialled with 108 women.
They gave them all a blood pressure cuff to use at home, and asked them to record the results in the app.
Results published today, in the journal Ultrasound in Obstetrics & Gynaecology, found women who used the app were no worse off than 58 other mothers who were monitored in clinic.
Lead author Professor Asma Khalil said: “It is time to use existing technology in order to improve the way we look after pregnant women.”
The app, dubbed HaMpton (Home Monitoring of Hypertension in Pregnancy), has won a Health Service Journal award and been included on a NHS “accelerator” programme advancing the roll-out of new technology.
It is set to be used in other hospitals, including Croydon, Royal Surrey, East Surrey and possibly Northwick Park and North Middlesex. The app saved the NHS £278 a week per patient – the equivalent to £44 million a year if rolled out across the country.
Patients having blood pressure checks often experience “white coat syndrome”, where their ratings are artificially high because of the experience of being in hospital.
This can result in tests being taken several times, with the patient delayed until she has “acclimatised” to the hospital.
Clare Murray, 45, a copy editor from Balham, a participant in the trial who gave birth to Alexander last March, said the app was “incredibly simple to use”.
She said: “It was a huge benefit. It saved me travelling in to hospital. It also saved the staff a lot of time. I would get much more realistic results because I was at home and relaxed.
“If it went too high, it would flash up and say ‘measure it again’. If it went too high again, it would say ‘call the hospital’. It can’t be emphasised enough how much it saved the NHS in time.”
Professor Khalil said that while the app could help to detect signs of pre-eclampsia, it was not suitable for the minority of women diagnosed with the condition, or those known to have very high blood pressure.
“This is a more efficient service that is patient-friendly and empowers women to get involved in their own care,” she added.