Study Ties Telemedicine to Better Blood Pressure Management

A fascinating study out of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) draws an interesting correlation to blood pressure management and the use of telemedicine during the COVID pandemic. Although the study is by no means conclusive, it seems to suggest that utilizing telemedicine during those stressful two years helped some patients better manage their blood pressure.

As odd as the study might seem, conducting it was not without reason. Historically, people have tended to exhibit higher blood pressure during stressful events. Blood pressures tend to go up during national emergencies, for example.

Researchers expected as much during the COVID pandemic. But they were curious to see how high average blood pressure climbed during the worst parts of the pandemic. So they compared the health records of more than 137,000 patients from about mid-2018 through the fall of 2020.

Higher Blood Pressure in 2020

Researchers were not surprised to discover that patients exhibited higher blood pressures during the first eight months of the pandemic compared to the 18 months prior to the start of emergency lockdowns. However, they did note that the data did not look as bad as they had originally anticipated.

Simply put, researchers expected the results to be much worse. The fact that the data didn’t meet expectations suggests some external factor that prevented higher blood pressure readings among study patients. The researchers surmised that quick access to telemedicine may have been the deciding factor.

Telemedicine Kept Patients on Track

The thinking is that a combination of stress, less sleep, less physical exercise, and additional cardiovascular disease risks would lead to higher blood pressure among the study patients at the height of the pandemic. But the data showed otherwise.

Researchers speculate that the use of telemedicine and home-based blood pressure monitoring enabled doctors and their patients to keep things under control. Patients who otherwise would have exhibited higher blood pressure stayed on track because they stayed in communication with their doctors.

Telemedicine As an Emergency Option

To the extent that the study data can be trusted, it demonstrates that telemedicine is an effective emergency option. When patients have no other way to see their doctors, telemedicine fills the gap. We can extend this principle to include many other scenarios.

Consider natural disasters that create the need for emergency triage. San Antonio-based CSI Health manufactures a high-tech mobile unit that offers real-time diagnostics, secure data transfer, and video chat. The mobile units are ideal for providing health screening and triage during emergencies.

Even events that do not require triage could be better served with remote telemedicine solutions. Offering primary care to flood victims comes to mind. Another option is treating patients displaced by wild fires.

Telemedicine Beyond Emergency Scenarios

No doubt the NIH study shines a bright light on using telemedicine as an emergency solution. But CSI Health cautions against ending the discussion there. Telemedicine offers a range of exciting opportunities that go well beyond emergency scenarios.

With the right technology and staff, standalone telemedicine suites can provide access to medical care in rural environments where family practices and hospitals rarely locate. Likewise for urban health clinics catering to underserved populations. Even corporate wellness centers can make use of telemedicine solutions to help their employees maintain good health.

It would appear as though telemedicine helped patients and their doctors better manage high blood pressure during the most stressful months of the COVID pandemic. Hopefully, it is a lesson not soon forgotten. Telemedicine has a legitimate place in modern healthcare, a place that should not be ignored by a system clinging ever so tightly to traditional methods.