Almost one-third of all American adults battles hypertension.  On a global basis, hypertension, or high blood pressure (BP), is a leading cause of death.  The medical condition increases a patient’s risk of developing disabling cardiovascular or kidney diseases that can lead to death.

Web-based management of hypertensionTraditional methods of treating it, which include medication and regular clinical visits for monitoring, have not proven to be as effective as desired but a team of researchers at the Group Health Center for Health Studies in Seattle, Washington, report in the June 25 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) that, when patients become more involved with their own treatment, improvement is more likely to occur.

The research team, led by Beverly B. Green, MD, MPH, enlisted 778 study participants ranging in age from 25 to 75 years of age who had sustained, or baseline, BP readings of 140/90 or higher.  Participants were randomly divided into three groups for the study, which included a follow-up visit after one year of treatment.  The study began in June 2005 and continued through December 2007.

One group of study participants was provided with traditional treatment methods for hypertension.  The second group received BP monitoring devices designed for home use plus training offered over the internet.  The third group used the BP home monitoring devices, internet training, and care-management communications with a pharmacist via the internet.  The first group, receiving traditional means of treatment, was the control group against which the results of the other two groups were measured.

All internet communications and training information used for the study were delivered online using a secure website service developed to provide medical services to its members.  As members of the service, study participants could correspond with their doctors via email, refill prescriptions, schedule appointments, view test results, and research health-related issues.

The first (control) group of study participants and those in the second group (getting BP monitoring at home and web-based training) showed no significant levels of control of overall BP levels but 25% more of the participants in the third group (getting home BP monitoring, web-based training, and the pharmacist) achieved a level of control over their hypertension.

Some participants started the study with baseline systolic pressure (the top number) at 160 or more.  Of the study participants in the third group with systolic BP this high, control was achieved in three times more individuals than in the control group.

The ability to transfer medical records electronically and to access one’s medical records online using the growing number of secure internet services developed for this purpose is a new phenomenon of which there has been very little long-term review for effectiveness.  This Group Health Center study is one of the first of its kind and the results are very favorable.  The research team would like to see other chronic medical conditions studied under similar circumstances.

Source: American Medical Association