Enabling Wearable Pulse Transit Time-Based Blood Pressure Estimation for Medically Underserved Areas and Health Equity: Comprehensive Evaluation Study

JMIR Mhealth Uhealth. 2021 Aug 2;9(8):e27466. doi: 10.2196/27466.


Background: Noninvasive and cuffless approaches to monitor blood pressure (BP), in light of their convenience and accuracy, have paved the way toward remote screening and management of hypertension. However, existing noninvasive methodologies, which operate on mechanical, electrical, and optical sensing modalities, have not been thoroughly evaluated in demographically and racially diverse populations. Thus, the potential accuracy of these technologies in populations where they could have the greatest impact has not been sufficiently addressed. This presents challenges in clinical translation due to concerns about perpetuating existing health disparities.

Objective: In this paper, we aim to present findings on the feasibility of a cuffless, wrist-worn, pulse transit time (PTT)-based device for monitoring BP in a diverse population.

Methods: We recruited a diverse population through a collaborative effort with a nonprofit organization working with medically underserved areas in Georgia. We used our custom, multimodal, wrist-worn device to measure the PTT through seismocardiography, as the proximal timing reference, and photoplethysmography, as the distal timing reference. In addition, we created a novel data-driven beat-selection algorithm to reduce noise and improve the robustness of the method. We compared the wearable PTT measurements with those from a finger-cuff continuous BP device over the course of several perturbations used to modulate BP.

Results: Our PTT-based wrist-worn device accurately monitored diastolic blood pressure (DBP) and mean arterial pressure (MAP) in a diverse population (N=44 participants) with a mean absolute difference of 2.90 mm Hg and 3.39 mm Hg for DBP and MAP, respectively, after calibration. Meanwhile, the mean absolute difference of our systolic BP estimation was 5.36 mm Hg, a grade B classification based on the Institute for Electronics and Electrical Engineers standard. We have further demonstrated the ability of our device to capture the commonly observed demographic differences in underlying arterial stiffness.

Conclusions: Accurate DBP and MAP estimation, along with grade B systolic BP estimation, using a convenient wearable device can empower users and facilitate remote BP monitoring in medically underserved areas, thus providing widespread hypertension screening and management for health equity.

Keywords: cuffless blood pressure; health equity; mobile phone; noninvasive blood pressure estimation; pulse transit time; wearable sensing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Blood Pressure
  • Health Equity*
  • Humans
  • Medically Underserved Area
  • Pulse Wave Analysis
  • Wearable Electronic Devices*