Smart phone strategy: Reminder call helps control blood pressure

Better blood pressure control may be as simple as an automated telephone call.

In a study published in the September issue of The Journal of Clinical Hypertension, researchers from Kaiser Permanente Southern California made automated phone calls to hypertensive patients reminding them to visit their doctor’s office to have their blood pressure checked. Patients who received the calls controlled their blood pressure significantly better than the control group who received no calls (32.5 percent vs. 23.7 percent). Kaiser Permanente Southern California is a health delivery system that provides care to more than 3.5 million people.

“This study provides new information about how an automated telephone message can lead to improved BP [blood pressure] control among patients with hypertension,” said the study’s lead author, Teresa Harrison, SM, in a press release. “We found that this simple outreach program can improve blood pressure control, especially among patients with multiple chronic conditions.”

The researchers enrolled more than 64,000 adult patients in the Kaiser Permanente health system with uncontrolled hypertension. About half of the participants were assigned to the intervention group, who received a phone call between Aug. 9 and Aug. 16, 2010.

Four weeks later, they assessed blood pressures. As their primary outcome, they used blood pressure control defined as less than 130/80 mm Hg for patients with diabetes or chronic kidney disease and less than 140/90 mm Hg for all others.

In addition to the intervention group having significantly better blood pressure control, the researchers found that patients who received the calls who had cardiovascular disease, chronic kidney disease or diabetes were 8.4 percent more likely to their blood pressure under control when compared with participants without these conditions.

“Our results suggest that walk-in, clinic-based BP measurements may have a positive effect on hypertension control, particularly among individuals who lack regular monitoring,” the authors wrote.

The authors also argued that this type of intervention is cost-effective and quick.

“From our perspective, this type of outreach is a win-win scenario that can provide physicians with terrific hypertension control rates and patients with improved health outcomes,” co-author Joel Handler, MD, said in press release.