Texting beneficial for heart disease patients

Texting supportive reminders regarding lifestyle choices to patients with heart disease can help improve treatment results, reveals a new study; however, further research is needed to determine if such benefits continue once the texting stops.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, involved 352 participants who received four texts each week for a six-month period, and a control group of 358 patients who were given traditional care.

Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol was determined to be significantly lower in the intervention group, and 91 percent of that group viewed the text program as useful. Results also indicated lower blood pressure readings, increased physical activity and a significant reduction in smoking among the text group members.

"What is still needed, however, is evidence that mobile technologies can indeed facilitate improvements in health," Zubin J. Eapen, M.D., and Eric D. Peterson, M.D., note in a commentary on the study and similar interventions.

They say while the research is a good initial look at mHealth interventions, questions remain. Participants for the study who had language barriers or no access to a mobile phone were not chosen for the study, so it is unclear how well such a project would work if they were included. In addition, data was allowed to be self-reported, which could cause reporting bias, Eapen and Peterson write.

Mobile-based texting is becoming a popular disease management and treatment tool. Researchers on behalf of the American Heart Association report the ability to use apps, mobile devices and real-time data sharing will be key to hurdling remaining obstacles in reducing cardiovascular-related (CVD) mortality rates.

"Mobile technologies provide a potentially scalable and cost-effective program to facilitate those needs," Eapen and Peterson write, in relation to CVD prevention.

Texting and other mobile devices tools also allow patients to track issues, concerns and questions in real-time for bedside interaction.

For more information:
- read the JAMA study
- here's the commentary