Peer-focused mobile tool helps cardiac patients manage disease

Heart monitor

A peer support mobile tool holds the potential to provide significant benefits for females managing heart disease, a small new study finds.

A study, published in Telemedicine and e-Health, reveals improvements in health behaviors as well as self-monitoring, social support and integration following the use of the Healing Circles program, a self-management tool for cardiovascular disease (CVD).

Peer support, the study's authors say, is a key factor in patient self-management, as well as motivation for managing a heart condition. Healing Circles connects CVD patients in group interactions. The 10-week study involved 35 females split into five ‘circles’ to provide peer support.

“[T]he use of technology to develop a community of women with CVD and facilitate the delivery of peer support was appreciated," the authors say. "The delivery of peer support using mobile technologies to improve self-management and social support is conceptually sound."

Study participants reported having a better understanding of their health and symptoms, and took part in more physical and stress management activities. Using Healing Circles early on in disease diagnosis may provide even more benefits given the need for disease information, the authors say.

There is increasing interest among providers and payers to tap digital tools for cardiac diagnosis. For instance, a Mayo Clinic research trial conducted earlier this year revealed participants 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.

The Healing Circles researchers note further investigation regarding intervention is needed to confirm their results.

“The finding that the support provided through Healing Circles improves the ability of individuals to self-monitor their health is an important contribution, and is likely a key reason why our participants reported improved health behaviors," they say. "Whether this leads to improvement in CVD risk factors and sustained CVD risk reduction will be examined in the future using robust study designs."