Telemonitoring helps to lower blood pressure rates

With an estimated one in three adults in the U.S. suffering from high-blood pressure--which, when combined with stroke, costs the U.S. healthcare system $156 billion annually--it is imperative that better methods of caring for the condition emerge. Telemonitoring research unveiled this week at the American Heart Association's Quality of Care and Outcomes Research Scientific Sessions 2012 in Atlanta provided a glimmer of hope for such patients.

Patients who received telemonitoring help and regular follow-up support from a pharmacist were more likely to have lowered their blood pressure than patients receiving traditional care, according to researchers, led by Karen Margolis, M.D., of Bloomington, Minn.-based HealthPartners Research Foundation.

Of 450 patients, 228 received high blood pressure management and telemonitoring support from a pharmacist, in addition to their regular primary care appointments; roughly 72 percent of those patients saw their BP level reduced to a healthy level over the course of six months. By contrast, only 45 percent of 222 patients that did not receive the additional telemonitoring care with pharmacist follow-up saw their BP lowered.

What's more, patients in the telemonitoring group reported receiving more medications--and remembering to take those medications--than their traditional care counterparts.

Margolis and her colleagues concluded that such results, if sustained over a longer period of time, could serve as a cost-effective way to help prevent heart attacks or strokes.

Interestingly, though, a study published in April in the Archives of Internal Medicine determined that, at least for seniors, telemonitoring was ineffective at reducing hospital readmissions. The researchers found no difference in the hospitalization, emergency department visit and hospital day rates between a telemonitored group of patients and patients receiving traditional care.

Still, a study published last September in the journal Health Affairs found that telehealth helped to lower spending on chronically ill patients between 8 and 13 percent per patient, per quarter, on average.

To learn more:
- here's the study's abstract
- check out the accompanying announcement
- read the HHS announcement

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