A new study has revealed that regular communication with doctors can lower the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
In a four-year study, researchers at the Temple University examined the prevention of heart disease in at-risk, but otherwise healthy patients in rural and urban settings through frequent patient-doctor communications.
The patients and doctors interacted via an internet-based health reporting system in conjunction with regular clinic visits.
The researchers found that adding the internet reporting system to traditional office visits allowed participants to communicate more frequently with their healthcare providers, consequently, they were able to lower heart disease risk by improving blood pressure, blood lipid levels and cardiovascular disease risk score.
Alfred Bove, lead researcher, professor emeritus of medicine at the School of Medicine and chief of cardiology at Temple University Hospital believes that telemedicine's use among people underserved by the healthcare system can bridge the "medical divide" between treatment and outcomes for upper- and lower-income patients.
"Communication between a patient and their primary care provider works for prevention of cardiovascular disease, whether it's in the office, or over the Internet," he said.
"With rising healthcare costs, a telemedicine system can encourage communication between patients and their doctors with less cost and time commitment than frequent doctor visits," he added.
The study participants were randomly divided into a control group or a telemedicine group and received a device to measure blood pressure and a pedometer to measure daily steps, along with advice on exercising and its benefits in preventing heart disease.
The telemedicine group also regularly transmitted their blood pressure, weight and pedometer data to cardiologists, and received feedback and educational information via the Internet.
The findings revealed that participants had significantly reduced blood pressure, lipids and cardiovascular disease risk scores, and were able to walk farther distances.
"This is an excellent way to encourage patients to communicate directly with their primary care physicians and become empowered to ask questions and become proactive in their healthcare," Bove said.
The study was presented at the American College of Cardiology's annual meeting on March 30.