Patients with high blood pressure, or hypertension, could better control their condition when they interacted twice a month with an online pharmacist. The new research suggests that Web-based tools may help people take a more active role in their own medical care.
Doctors and many patients know that better blood pressure control can reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and kidney disease. But only about 1 in 3 patients with hypertension keep their blood pressure readings below target levels.
NIH-funded researchers tested whether Web-based tools might help patients control their hypertension. The team looked at over 700 patients, ages 27-75, whose blood pressure stayed high even though they received medications.
The patients were randomly assigned to 3 different groups. One received standard medical care. Another received a home blood pressure monitor and instructions for using a health Web site. The third group received the same as the other 2, plus private Web interactions with a clinical pharmacist every 2 weeks. The pharmacists could adjust the patients’ medications and doses.
After 1 year of treatment, more than half of the patients interacting with the online pharmacist achieved their target blood pressure readings. By comparison, about one-third of those in the other 2 groups reached that level of blood pressure control.
The scientists say that regular communications with a medical expert and fine-tuning of medications seemed to be key to the success of the online pharmacist. Web-based care might be especially helpful to patients who have difficulty traveling for clinic visits.
The researchers now plan to explore whether the strategy might prove helpful for treating other long-term diseases.