Chronic diseases like hypertension and heart disease are among the top causes of mortality in the United States. Of all the risk factors which are related to these illnesses, blood pressure monitoring and proper diet are the ones individuals can practice taking control of their condition.
A study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine explored this particular factor. In the research, it was found out that Group Health patients who have online access to a dietitian were more likely to have improved weight, losing about 10 pounds within a span of 6 months, compared to those who received traditional care. 90 people participated in the program, and 44 of them have been assigned to receive online care, while the rest received usual care.
Dr. Beverly Green, MPH, a family doctor at Group Health, an associate investigator at Group Health Research Institute, and an assistant clinical professor in family medicine at the University of Washington (UW) School of Medicine, stated that patients are enjoying the idea of having a portable dietitian in their pockets. They are especially satisfied by the fact that they can have access to their dietitian anytime.
The biomedical study, dubbed as the e-Care for Heart Wellness study, also provided the subjects in the intervention group with a pedometer, a blood pressure monitor and a scale. They are visited by a dietitian once during the six months to plan the diet program for reducing the risks of heart problems. Included in the discussion is the practice of the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, which involves taking in 8-10 servings of fruit vegetables per day.
After the visit, secure messaging was used through the Group Health’s website for patients. This is to enable the members to report their current health status including their weight, blood pressure and their DASH diet intake. Sharing these details through a group messaging system also allows ongoing feedback. When the need arises, the dietitian may also call the attention of the doctors to consider revising their patient’s medications.
Previously, a large randomized control trial involving blood pressure control was conducted. The study, which was published in JAMA, was called e-BP (Electronic Blood Pressure). In this research, Dr. Green showed that individuals who have online access to a pharmacist are more likely to have their blood pressure controlled. Also, e-BP was also shown to effectively reduce the cost of visits.
The researchers led by Green are currently looking into combining the e-Care with the e-BP system to be able to tailor fit the provision of medical care to hypertensive patients depending on their specific needs.