Telemedicine leads to lower BP for underserved patients

Underserved, non-diabetic patients in urban communities who used a telemedicine system were able to significantly lower their blood pressure compared to similar patients receiving usual care, according to new research published this month in the American Heart Journal.

A total of 241 patients who had high blood pressure but no heart disease participated in a six-month trial led by Alfred Bove, past president of the American College of Cardiology and an emeritus professor of medicine at Temple University. Half of the patients (120) received care via a telemedicine system that required them to report measures such as BP, heart rate, weight, steps per day and tobacco use twice every week. The remaining 120 patients were given a treatment plan to follow at an initial visit to a primary care provider, but had no communication with said provider until the six months were up.

After narrowing the patients down to those who did not suffer from diabetes, the researchers found that those using telemedicine experienced an average BP drop of 19 millimeters of Mercury (mmHg); those receiving usual care had an average BP drop of 12 mmHg.

"Basically what we're doing with this tool is modifying behavior, and diabetics area already in a system of care--they're used to measuring their blood glucose, so they pay attention to [BP] regardless of usual care or telemedicine," Bove said in an announcement. "Hypertensive patients, however, are asymptomatic; they don't have any long-term system of care; they may see a doctor two or three times a year. So the telemedicine system is a process for reminding them to measure … and manage their blood pressure."

A recently published small study of patients with implantable electronic cardiovascular devices found that while remote monitoring of such patients proved effective, many of those patients still preferred in-office physician visits.

However, a global survey conducted this month by Cisco found that consumers increasingly are becoming comfortable with remote care.

To learn more:
- here's the study
- read the accompanying announcement