Friday, July 04, 2008

Blood Pressure Better Controlled Through Internet Health Care!

Patients with hypertension (high blood pressure) will usually have their blood pressure measured only at doctors’ clinics when they visit them for routine check-up. Although patients may have been advised to check and record their blood pressure at home, it seems that not many patients will actually do this. It is therefore difficult for the doctors to prescribe the relevant medications and appropriate dosage to have their patients’ blood pressure under control. High blood pressure, if not managed appropriately, can lead to stroke, heart disease, and other medical conditions.

In the last week of June 2008, a report published in Journal of the American Medical Association by researchers from Group Health in Seattle indicated that people with high blood pressure would get their condition under control when they get advice and medications delivered via Internet, along with home blood pressure monitoring.

The aim of the study is to find out whether high blood pressure could be managed over the Internet, without visiting a doctor.

778 patients with uncontrolled high blood pressure and Internet access were involved in the clinical trial. They were randomly assigned to usual care, to home BP monitoring and Web services training, or to home monitoring, Web services training, and management by a pharmacist delivered through Internet communications. The participants were middle-aged, working people for whom Web-based care is convenient.

With Web services, patients could email their doctors, refill prescriptions, request appointments, get test results, and look up health information. Meanwhile, the pharmacists in the study were also allowed to prescribe medications. By using email communication, they could also manage the patients' blood pressure and adjust medications accordingly until the target blood pressure was reached.

After 12 months, about one-third of the patients in the first 2 groups achieved a normal blood pressure, and those with the Internet-based pharmacist care, more than half of the patients got their blood pressure down to normal.

According to the researchers, Web communication could improve health care because it is always available (24 hours and 7 days a week), it allows people to respond at a time which they feel convenient, and it is in a briefer way than over the telephone or during a personal visit.

It is believed that greater use of electronic medical records, Web communications, and empowering patients to take a greater role in their care will eventually lead to improved health outcomes and lower health care costs. As such, the researchers urged more efforts should be devoted to make these services available to all.

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