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

October 31, 2012, University of Michigan Health System
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."

Explore further: Take your blood pressure meds before bed

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

October 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 ...

Hypertension control in Canada has improved significantly

May 16, 2011
Treatment and awareness of hypertension in Canada have improved significantly in the last 25 years for community-dwelling adults, states an article in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

Relation of poor sleep quality to resistant hypertension

September 21, 2012
For people who already have high blood pressure, insomnia can have serious consequences, according to a new study presented at the American Heart Association's High Blood Pressure Research 2012 Scientific Sessions.

Recommended for you

Wine is good for you—to a point

January 18, 2018
The Mediterranean diet has become synonymous with healthy eating, but there's one thing in it that stands out: It's cool to drink wine.

Sleep better, lose weight?

January 17, 2018
(HealthDay)—Sleeplessness could cost you when it's time to stand on your bathroom scale, a new British study suggests.

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...

Teens likely to crave junk food after watching TV ads

January 15, 2018
Teenagers who watch more than three hours of commercial TV a day are more likely to eat hundreds of extra junk food snacks, according to a report by Cancer Research UK.

Can muesli help against arthritis?

January 15, 2018
It is well known that healthy eating increases a general sense of wellbeing. Researchers at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have now discovered that a fibre-rich diet can have a positive influence ...

0 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.