According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 65 million Americans have high blood pressure with approximately 74 percent taking medication to treat high blood pressure.
Research presented at the 61st American College of Cardiology’s Annual Scientific Session found internet-based telemedicine to lead to more effective medication prescriptions, improved blood pressure control, and a reduction in cardiovascular risk when compared to traditional, periodic office visits.
Telemedicine to monitor blood pressure refers to patients reporting blood pressure readings more frequently via web-based platforms. This led to more efficient and timely treatment plan adjustments if needed from their health care team.
Based on results, physicians tend to prescribe more blood pressure medications for those patients who do not have well controlled blood pressure levels with their current treatment plan.
This particular study involved 241 patients with uncontrolled hypertension, meaning blood pressure levels were greater than 150/90 mm Hg. A majority of participants were taking one to two blood pressure medications at the beginning of the study. The 241 participants were divided into two groups, those that received traditional office visit care and those who received telemedicine combined with traditional office visits. Those in the telemedicine group also received counseling on heart disease risk reduction, received a home blood pressure cuff with training on how to properly use it. The telemedicine group was asked to record their blood pressure, weight, heart rate, steps taken per day, and tobacco use twice a week for a six month period of time.
After six months, medications prescribed to those in the traditional office visit group changed very little. There was a significant increase in the number of medications ordered for those in the telemedicine group. According to one internal medicine resident, this shows more timely action taken for patients self-monitoring and reporting their results via telemedicine.
Now, I don’t like the idea of someone being on more medications; however, what is important is that your blood pressure is well controlled. If you are taking one blood pressure medication and your blood pressure is still elevated it’s not effectively reducing your cardiovascular disease risk. Something else needs to happen. What I’d like to see is a diet and lifestyle component added to promote lower blood pressure for patients receiving treatment. Making diet and lifestyle changes can reduce your need for medication and make the medications you do take more effective.
At least this study shows that the use of modern technology allows for more frequent reporting by patients and monitoring by doctors which can effectively control levels from a pharmacological perspective.
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