Background: Smartphone ownership is rising at a stunning rate. Moreover, smartphones prove to be suitable for use in health care due to their availability, portability, user-friendliness, relatively low price, wireless connectivity, far-reaching computing capabilities, and comprehensive memory. To measure vital signs, smartphones are often connected to a mobile sensor or a medical device. However, by using the white light-emitting diode as light source and the phone camera as photodetector, a smartphone could be used to perform photoplethysmography (PPG), enabling the assessment of vital signs.
Objective: The objective of this meta-analysis was to evaluate the available evidence on the use of smartphone apps to measure heart rate by performing PPG in comparison with a validated method.
Methods: PubMed and ISI Web of Knowledge were searched for relevant studies published between January 1, 2009 and December 7, 2016. The reference lists of included studies were hand-searched to find additional eligible studies. Critical Appraisal Skills Programme (CASP) Diagnostic Test Study checklist and some extra items were used for quality assessment. A fixed effects model of the mean difference and a random effects model of Pearson correlation coefficient were applied to pool the outcomes of the studies.
Results: In total, 14 studies were included. The pooled result showed no significant difference between heart rate measurements with a smartphone and a validated method (mean difference -0.32; 99% CI -1.24 to 0.60; P=.37). In adults, the Pearson correlation coefficient of the relation between heart rate measurement with a smartphone and a validated method was always ≥.90. In children, the results varied depending on measuring point and heart rate. The pooled result showed a strong correlation that was significant (correlation coefficient .951; 95% CI 0.906-0.975; P<.001). The reported limits of agreement showed good agreement between a smartphone and a validated method. There was a moderately strong significant negative correlation between the year of publication of the included studies and the mean difference (r=-.69; P<.001).
Conclusions: Smartphone apps measuring heart rate by performing PPG appear to agree with a validated method in an adult population during resting sinus rhythm. In a pediatric population, the use of these apps is currently not validated.
Keywords: electrocardiography; heart rate; meta-analysis; mobile applications; oximetry; photoplethysmography.
©Benjamin De Ridder, Bart Van Rompaey, Jarl K Kampen, Steven Haine, Tinne Dilles. Originally published in JMIR Cardio (http://cardio.jmir.org), 27.02.2018.