Automated calls help patients in under-developed countries manage blood pressure

U-M medical student, Hema Datwani, screens patient for study eligibility in Mexico. Credit: University of Michigan Health System

Hypertension is one of the greatest epidemics threatening the health of people in low and middle-income countries.

For struggling with high blood pressure in countries with limited access to health care, the key to improving health may be as simple as a phone call.

New University of Michigan research evaluated the impact of automated calls from a U.S.-based server to the mobile phones of patients with hypertension (high blood pressure) in Honduras and Mexico. The program was designed to be a low-cost way of providing long distance checkups and self-management education.

Patients were provided with home blood pressure monitors and reported information about their blood pressure, medication use and symptoms during the weekly automated calls. During the calls, they received tailored health information from U-M via a cloud .

Compared to patients receiving usual care, those who received the weekly 12-minute calls for six weeks were more likely to say that they understood how to take their medication, experienced fewer and were more satisfied with care. Blood pressures decreased significantly, especially among patients with the greatest need for education about their hypertension management.

"What some people may not realize is that the biggest in less-developed countries aren't just communicable diseases like HIV. Chronic disease and high are the biggest killers," says lead author John D. Piette, Ph.D., professor of internal medicine at the U-M Medical School.

"Our work shows that mobile technology can be used to help people living in of the world that don't have the infrastructure for health services. It was gratifying to see how something based at U-M could give these patients in remote areas information they needed to manage their hypertension."

The results were published in Telemedicine and e-Health.

Despite high poverty levels in both Honduras and Mexico, up to 70 percent of the population has a cell phone – making it an instrumental tool to improve access to health monitoring and information, Piette says. The telehealthcare model had the most successful outcomes among people who had limited literacy – averaging just six years of formal education – and who lived on an average income of $2,900 a year.

Hypertension is a leading cause of the global epidemic of cardiovascular diseases and is a top health issue in Latin America where more than 100 million adults are hypertensive and rates among men are the highest in the world. Two-thirds of people with live in low and .

"Our work provides evidence that this model of telehealthcare can deliver meaningful services to patients in remote areas of the world lacking access to health services," says Piette, who is also senior research scientist with the Veterans Affairs Ann Arbor Healthcare System. "We hope to further study how this model helps with other conditions such as diabetes or depression."

More information: "Hypertension Management using Mobile Technology and Home Blood Pressure Monitoring: Results of a Randomized Trial in Two Low/Middle-Income Countries," Telemedicine and e-Health, doi:10.1089/tmj.2011.027

Related Stories

Take your blood pressure meds before bed

date Oct 24, 2011

It's better to take blood pressure-lowering medications before bed rather than first thing in the morning, according to a study appearing in an upcoming issue of the Journal of the American Society Nephrology (JASN). The results i ...

Recommended for you

India's bidi workers suffer for 1,000-a-day habit

date 7 hours ago

Zainab Begum Alvi and her band of young helpers hunch over baskets filled with tobacco flakes and dried leaves, trying to roll a thousand dirt-cheap cigarettes a day at the behest of India's powerful bidi barons.

Key to better sex ed: Focus on gender & power

date Apr 17, 2015

A new analysis by Population Council researcher Nicole Haberland provides powerful evidence that sexuality and HIV education programs addressing gender and power in intimate relationships are far more likely ...

Journal tackles aging policy issues raised by White House

date Apr 17, 2015

In anticipation of the forthcoming 2015 White House Conference on Aging (WHCoA), The Gerontological Society of America (GSA) has produced a special issue of The Gerontologist that outlines a vision for older adults' econom ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.