R-I-N-G-G-G: your blood pressure, please?

May 19, 2009 by  

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old_phoneIt’s not your normal phone call. It is just like having your own assistant who reminds you to check your blood pressure and refill your prescriptions except that this is all fully automated and computerized. Researchers at the University of Montreal tried a computer-based telephone program which automatically calls hypertension patients a couple of times a week to inquire for blood pressure measurements. The readings are then recorded and passed on to the patient’s health care provider who will then analyze the data and modify the treatment regime if deemed necessary.

The study included 223 hypertension patients from different primary care clinics in Laval, Quebec. 111 of the participants were assigned to the intervention group who received “an educational booklet, a digital home blood pressure monitor, a log book and access to the telephone-linked management system.” The remaining 112 received only the booklet in addition to their usual medical care program.

The study results showed that this “simple, automated feedback system made hypertension patients more aware of their potentially fatal or disabling disease and helped them significantly lower their high blood pressure.”

The reductions in blood pressure measurements in the intervention group are:

  • 11.9 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) in systolic blood pressure
  • 6.6 mm Hg in diastolic pressure

The reductions in the control group are:

  • 7.1 mm Hg systolic blood pressure
  • 4.5 mm Hg diastolic

The success of this computer-based phone call program can be attributed to its ease and convenience but also due to the fact that there is always someone reminding the patients what to do and as well as give feedback on how well they are doing.

In addition, this is a helpful service for those patients who aren’t too mobile and tend to be forgetful.

The next step is to find out how cost-effective is this automated intervention.

According to lead author Dr. Pavel Hamet,

“The automated blood-pressure control system could be widely accepted if it is cost-effective. The healthcare system doesn’t want to increase the cost without some benefit.”

Automated services are usually more cost-effective than manned services. In addition, if further studies can confirm that this automated phone call reminder service can prevent complications of hypertension such as stroke and kidney failure that can add to health care costs, then the health authorities might just be convinced of the system’s benefits.

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