MOCAheart: A Monitor for the Everyday Heart-Conscious

By Kyle Piscioniere October 14, 2015

This week I’ve had the chance to test the MOCAheart heart rate monitor, the new offering from California health tech company MOCACARE. I found the device helpful, beautiful, and a quiet reminder to stay heart healthy in the course of day-to-day life; however, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who wants to know their heart rate outside of a resting, relaxed context.

In other words: this device is not for fitness.

MOCAheart is a simple, pill-shaped, thumb-sized tablet that registers its users’ heart rate, blood oxygen level, location, and any other notes the user decides to take. The service lets users send that information to others, so that users’ families, friends, or healthcare providers can get updated information about the user’s heart health.

MOCAheart won the IF Design Award 2015, and that accolade is well-earned. The sensor is a gorgeous stainless steel reminder that we live in a shiny new future. The medical-grade steel case is about the length of your finger, with two intuitive sensors on which to place your thumbs. And at 20 grams and 7 millimeters thick, the tablet is an unobtrusive addition to a desktop or a pocket.

I installed my device easily, and was only bogged down by the typical hiccups that come with Bluetooth compatibility. It took me ten minutes total from opening the box to taking my first reading, and that time includes finding and downloading the app.

 The MOCAheart only pairs with an iOS app at the moment, though an Android app is soon to drop. The app is a simple interface that lets the device and any iPhone work together. Naturally, it shows the user’s heart rate and blood oxygen level, but the app’s true benefit is that it plots user heart rate readings over days, weeks, months, and years. I found myself more interested in the trends of my heart rate than the individual readings, and was compelled to add more notes to identify causes and effects – coffee increases my heart rate, on average, about 5 or 6 BPM, though that effect stops after about 3 cups.

The heart rate readings have been entirely accurate, within 3 or 4 BPM. I’ve compared the device to other heart rate monitors and two nurses’ appraisals of my heart rate, and they all fell into the same cluster. That accuracy is helpful, especially because that kind of precision is usually only achieved through a fitness band or, worse, a more accurate but bulky chest strap that can get stuck on you and your clothes.

In everyday use, my only (small) complaint was with the Bluetooth connectivity. Syncing the device with my phone is usually as simple as turning the MOCAheart on, but it has two quirks: the first is that the device must be turned on, off, and then on again before registering with the phone – though this may be particular to my unit.

The second issue, which may not be the device’s fault, is that the Bluetooth signal will occasionally drop. When that happens the phone must be resynced by tapping the MOCAheart to the iPhone screen, and periodically the phone would drop the device multiple times in a row, forcing me to do it all again and again.

The MocaHeart is primed for those who want to keep an eye on their daily resting heart rate. Users who want to measure their active or elevated rate may want to turn to another, less hands-on device like a watch or a chest band; using the device on a treadmill was nearly impossible, and only slightly easier on a stationary bike. Also, the device is not waterproof, and I worried that sweaty thumbs/palms would damage it.

Although the company shies away from describing itself as medical equipment, the MOCAheart seems best for those who need to keep an eye on heart health for medical, rather than fitness, purposes. To that end, the device definitely beats a trip to the hospital or pharmacy, and its ability to relay information to others – think from an elderly parent to a caregiving adult child – should prove convenient. Caregivers should be especially pleased with the app’s response to abnormal heart rates: it recommends medical advice based on the severity of the heart rate’s deviance.

The device retails at $150, which puts it on par with more fitness-related, higher end monitors like the Fitbit. It’s an intuitive and simple addition to daily life, and I highly recommend it to those worried about their day-to-day heart health.

Edited by Ken Briodagh
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