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Text Messaging Tools to Help Patients Manage Diabetes and Hypertension

Helping patients manage type 2 diabetes and hypertension has always been challenging, but a pilot study suggests that a combination of text messaging and home blood pressure monitoring may be a big help.

In a 7-week study published in Pilot and Feasibility Studies, Edith Angellotti and colleagues at Tufts University found that the wireless technology was not only acceptable to the patients, but that there was a 3.4 mm Hg drop in mean arterial pressure  and 0.31% decline in hemoglobin A1C during the study period. The study involved 12 patients who received text messages, and a subgroup of nine people that received the wireless home blood pressure monitoring.

In the subgroup, the research team used an FDA-approved home blood pressure monitoring device from iHealth Labs Inc. The device connected via Bluetooth to a phone or tablet. The patients were asked to check their pressure twice a day after sitting in a quiet room for 5 or more minutes, and the data were collected in the iHealth MyVitals App.

Clearly more research is needed to see if this approach works in the long term and has real and lasting benefits. But overall, 88% of the patients found the text messages easy to understand and 71% felt the frequency was right. And all nine of the patients who were in the subgroup that received the wireless home blood pressure monitoring found it useful.  Overall, the patients had an average age of 58.5 years, and ranged in age from 41 to 71 years.

One of the big advantages of this approach is that just about everyone has a cell phone and text messages are relatively inexpensive and can be automated. And they have been shown in previous studies to help  with lifestyle changes like losing weight, exercising, or taking medication. In fact, in the current study, the people who participated said that they were more likely to take their medication due to the intervention.

“At the end of the study, 82% of participants reported high medication adherence vs. 75% at baseline,” the authors noted.

The pilot study did not have a control group, was relatively small, and was conducted for a short period of time. However, it shows that that this relatively easy-to-implement, low-cost approach is both feasible and acceptable to patients. 

Last updated on 9/25/19.

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