Heart failure patients open to tech but prefer docs to manage condition

While technology provides the opportunity for heart failure patients to more actively manage their symptoms, patients still look to their doctors for guidance in doing so, according to a small study published in Telemedicine and eHealth.

The research explored 15 heart failure patients' views about technology in managing their condition, their mean age 64.

All the patients had used a device to take their vital signs at home within the past 30 days and reported positive views toward technology for daily logs for early indicators for worsening conditions, convenience, increasing knowledge and decreasing healthcare costs. However, some only kept the logs if they knew their doctors would require the information at their next appointment.

Most participants did not use other forms of technology, though one-third mentioned using the Internet for gathering health information from sites such as WebMD; they verified information with their doctors. Few participants were involved with social media. They held favorable views toward health apps, but few downloaded or used them.

Among the barriers to technology use were privacy concerns, mistrust of online data and low computer literacy. While most participants could define remote monitoring, they lacked knowledge of telehealth and telemedicine. However, participants were familiar with over-the-counter technology such as a home blood pressure cuff, defibrillator, glucometer and pulse oximeter.

Patients were likely to check their blood pressure daily, but not necessarily their weight. They tended to view weight measurement negatively, associated with being overweight or not fit, rather than as another vital sign. The authors see this as an opportunity for manufacturers to come up with devices that don't evoke such an emotional response and would be more readily accepted.

As primary information sources, the authors encourage physicians to patients to credible websites. With these patients' low use of social media, its usefulness might be limited, though disease-specific social networking forums might be useful for family members and patients open to such technology, the authors say.

Improving care coordination for patients' three chronic conditions--heart failure, diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease­---could save Medicare as much as $1.5 billion a year, according to a recent Rand Corp. report.

Philadelphia's Independence Blue Cross is doing that through patient-center medical homes, while N.Y.-based Unity Health System has found improved system integration central to improved care. A program to improve care for diabetics through data-sharing there has been expanded to include heart failure patients.

To learn more:
- find the study

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