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Cuffless Blood Pressure Monitoring: Interview with Jiang Li, CEO at Vivalink

Conn Hastings |

Blood pressure is a crucial factor in cardiovascular health, but measuring it using conventional pressurized cuff systems in a doctor’s clinic is prone to unreliable results. A one-off measurement merely offers a clinician with one snapshot in time, potentially missing an intermittent issue. However, patients can also be prone to “white coat syndrome,” where anxiety during such measurements can lead to significantly misleading results.

Continuous measurements are preferable, but pressure cuff-based systems are cumbersome and inconvenient to wear on the move. This has inspired cuffless monitors, but some of these, such as optical systems, are prone to accuracy issues. Vivalink, a medtech company based in California, has created a cuffless blood pressure patch that the company reports is less prone to such issues.

The patch delivers continuous data on heart rate, ECG trace, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and respiratory rate. The patch is reusable and can be recharged, and does not require calibration.

Medgadget had the opportunity to speak with Jiang Li, CEO at Vivalink, about the technology.    

Conn Hastings, Medgadget: Please give us a basic overview of the importance of continuous blood pressure monitoring.

Jiang Li, Vivalink: Blood pressure technology has not changed much over the last few decades. Most clinicians still conduct blood pressure monitoring the old-fashioned way: recording patient vitals at intermittent, in-person visits with an inflatable cuff and the occasional at-home measurements. However, research has shown 40% of patients are misdiagnosed. This can happen for various reasons – white coat syndrome for one. Patients often have heightened anxiety around doctors or in clinics, which can show increased blood pressure when day-to-day it is not an issue. But these visits can also show the opposite: blood pressure happens to be normal the day of that visit, when in fact there is an underlying issue. This results in patients either taking medications they don’t need or vice versa. Both scenarios can result in unwanted complications. These issues beg for a better solution and to bring a modern approach to blood pressure monitoring.

Medgadget: How long have cuffless systems been available? How has this technology evolved?

Jiang Li: Blood pressure monitoring technologies haven’t advanced much past oscillometry. While considered to be accurate, these devices can still vary widely between device manufacturers, and are affected by patient weight, comorbidities and other risk factors. And they are generally prohibitive for continuous monitoring throughout the day.

The first cuffless blood pressure technology was introduced in the 1980s, but decades later, it is still in its infancy. With wearables and the advancement of technology, the industry is beginning to introduce alternatives that allow continuous blood pressure and heart rate monitoring. There are some cuffless devices that claim to be accurate wearable blood pressure alternatives, from wrist monitors, to smart phone apps, to toilet seats. However, many of these monitors are unable to provide consistent, accurate data, so that “holy grail” of continuous blood pressure monitoring has yet to be reached. 

Medgadget: How does the Vivalink blood pressure patch compare with other cuffless blood pressure technologies, such as optical systems?

Jiang Li: Vivalink is the first to introduce a unique wearable patch-based blood pressure device that leverages continuous ECG and mechanical signals instead of photoplethysmography (PPG). The use of electrical and mechanical signals can reduce the negative impacts from ambient lighting or high body mass index which are both commonly experienced by PPG sensors. That said, this new approach is still in its development stages as Vivalink is making the device available for research and development only at this point.

Medgadget: Please give us an overview of the patch, how it works, and the parameters it can measure.

Jiang Li: Vivalink has developed a unique algorithm based on ECG signals and other unique attributes of the patch. The reusable and rechargeable device can continuously capture ECG, heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure. In addition, it has a built-in accelerometer. Weighing just 7.5 grams, the patch is the size of a small bandage, and is water resistant and telemetry enabled. This makes it easy to wear throughout the day, and it can even capture data during sleep.

Our vision is to provide technology to create an all-in-one device that can monitor basic human vitals whether for in-clinic or remote and ambulatory patient monitoring.

Medgadget: Please give us an overview of the other wearables created by Vivalink.

Jiang Li: In addition to the wearable multi-vital ECG patch, we also offer other medical wearables that can monitor axillary temperature, pulse oximetry, blood pressure, blood glucose, and activity.

This portfolio of medical wearables is integrated with our Biometrics Data Platform, which also offers advanced data services and algorithms such as arrhythmia detection in the cloud.

Medgadget: Where do you see this technology going in the future? Do you have any plans for other wearables?

Jiang Li: With Vivalink’s technologies we’ll be able to bring conventional hospital grade monitoring capabilities into the home or any remote location in the world. With medical wearables and telemetry, the cost can be significantly reduced and accessibility drastically increased so patients anywhere in the world can have access to healthcare.

Link: Vivalink homepage…

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