Reminder calls boost patient monitoring via smartphones

Remote patient monitoring alone may not be an effective way to increase patient compliance, with tasks like checking blood pressure or blood glucose, according to a study out of the University Health Network in Toronto.

It turns out patients are far more likely to use the devices if they receive automatic phone calls or texts reminding them to perform the checks, or alerting them to negative trends in their results, says Dr. Joe Cafazzo, lead researcher on a one-year clinical trial of BP monitors for patients with diabetic hypertension. 

All 110 patients in the study received a home BP monitor, and a Blackberry smartphone to transmit data back to researchers. However, only the 55 in the experimental group received a special app that provided reminder calls when they didn't measure their BP at least three times per week, Cafazzo tells FierceMobileHealthcare. Patients in the control group had a monitor, but were simply asked to take readings, with no automatic follow-up.

Patients using the app saw their systolic blood pressure drop by 9.1 millimeters of mercury, on average, which would reduce the risk of cardiac events by about 25 percent, according to an article in Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Technology Review. They also reduced their diastolic pressure by 3.2 millimeters, Cafazzo says.

Patients in the control group, in a rather dramatic finding, had no reduction in blood pressure at all, Cafazzo notes. His conclusion: The monitor, and even the Blackberry smartphone, aren't the key to patient compliance--it's having "a bit of a nagging system," he says.

The BP monitor study is the second patient-engagement study of Cafazzo's in the past year. His other, a study of social media engagement with teens called BANT, showed some success with providing concrete rewards, like iTunes points, when teens recorded their glucose levels appropriately.

Putting the two studies together, Cafazzo says the next factor he may study is offering rewards to older diabetic patients, along with regular reminders.

To learn more:
- read the Technology Review article

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