Mayo Clinic researcher: Cardiac rehab patients readily embrace digital tools

The use of digital tools can help cardiac rehab patients lose weight, promote a proactive healthy lifestyle and improve heart health.

Patients in a 12-week Mayo Clinic research trial lost four times as much weight when using a proprietary smartphone app and Web portal to track weight, dietary habits and gain information on cardiovascular health. According to the Mayo Clinic, it is the first U.S. trial to assess the use of mobile and wireless devices in cardiac rehab.

The study was presented last week at the American College of Cardiology's 65th Annual Scientific Session in Chicago.

"The patients readily accepted the technology in both the Web-based and mobile platforms. These technologies have been shown to have a proven outcomes benefit on these types of patients, and should be implemented where available," lead study author Robert Jay Widmer, Ph.D., of the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, told FierceMobileHealthcare in an email interview.

The Mayo researchers and staff cardiologists collaborated with the IT department to develop the app and Web-based knowledge program.

However, Widmer said, keeping the online portal current was difficult.

"The most unexpected technological challenge was ensuring the educational information was current and up-to-date," he said. "This facet becomes important in attempting to personalize digital and mobile health for the specified patient population."

Last May, Mayo Clinic research assessing 51 studies regarding digital health tool use among cardiovascular disease patients found that several digital  health tools, including text, telemedicine and portals, can decrease recurrence of cardiovascular illness.

During the trial, patients using digital tools attended 30- to 90-minute cardiac rehab sessions and logged diet and exercise habits twice a week. They were asked to access the portal twice a week--and many did so on a daily basis. The patients' activities also showed that age did not impact whether patients could use the tools.

"Our research consistently shows age is not a factor in digital health use," Widmer said. "This really highlights the fact digital health can have an impact if properly designed and implemented--regardless of the age, gender, or other demographic parameters."

Going forward, Widmer noted that further, longer-term studies should be initiated to confirm the trial results.

"With this comes the challenge of taking the time and effort to perform a meticulous trial in such a rapidly-evolving field," he said. "Digital and mobile health research needs to incorporate specific research strategies to safely and effectively perform these large trials with proper scientific rigor."

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