mixetto/E+, Getty Images
(mixetto/E+, Getty Images)

People taking part in a pharmacist-led telemonitoring program to control high blood pressure had about half as many cardiovascular events as those monitored through routine office visits, according to a new study.

The research, published Monday in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension, used data from 450 people with uncontrolled high blood pressure across 16 clinics in Minnesota. Participants were randomly split into two groups. After six months of using at-home monitors and being guided over the phone by pharmacists, participants had lower blood pressure for two years compared to the group who received routine care through their primary care doctor.

After five years, 5.3% of the remote care group had heart attacks, strokes, stent placements or heart failure hospitalizations compared to 10.4% for the routine care group.

Patients reported they liked having support from a trusted professional, rapid feedback and adjustments to their treatment, and having someone to be accountable to, said lead study author Dr. Karen L. Margolis in a news release.

“By avoiding serious cardiovascular events over five years, our results indicate significant cost savings,” said Margolis, executive director of research at HealthPartners Institute in Minneapolis. Over five years, the study said the savings could be up to $1,900 per patient.

But researchers caution the five-year findings for a reduction in cardiovascular events fell “just short of statistical significance,” which means they could have been due to chance. Still, Margolis said, she and her colleagues were “surprised that the figures on serious cardiovascular events pointed so strongly to a benefit of the telemonitoring intervention.”

Nearly half of U.S. adults have high blood pressure, defined as equal to or greater than 130 for the top number or 80 for the bottom number. However, most adults with high blood pressure don’t have their numbers under control.

Margolis said based on the study findings, “widespread adoption of the telemonitoring model might help U.S. adults with uncontrolled high blood pressure avoid serious cardiovascular events and reduce health care costs.”

The study authors recommend future studies to figure out how to increase the number of patients engaged in home blood pressure monitoring over many years, and to measure cardiovascular risk factors and cardiovascular events over that extended period.

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