Researcher Beverly B. Green, MD, of the Group Health Center for Health Studies in Seattle, and colleagues looked at whether hypertension care could be successfully provided over the web without having patients come to a clinic.
The trial included 778 participants aged 25 to 75 who had uncontrolled hypertension and who also had Internet access. Patients received care over a secure web site from June 2005 to December 2007.
Most of those patients (730) completed a one year follow-up visit.
Here are some of the main results:
The best results were found in the group that had home blood pressure monitoring, web training, and were able to talk to a pharmacist online.
The group with the highest systolic blood pressure (160 or higher) at the start of the study who got home blood pressure monitoring, web training, and pharmacist care were nearly three and a half times more likely to bring their blood pressure under control than those who got usual care.
Researchers write that having access to an online pharmacist was key.
"Our findings demonstrate the effectiveness of using home BP monitoring combined with pharmacy care over the Web to improve BP control for patients with essential hypertension. More studies are needed to determine whether similar care can be applied to other chronic diseases, be implemented in other settings, and decrease costs."
Hypertension is one of the leading causes of death worldwide, according to an editorial that accompanied the study. Nearly one in three adults in the U.S. has high blood pressure.
While medications can help lower blood pressure, study authors write that hypertension remains poorly treated.
The researchers add that patients seem eager to use the Internet to contact doctors, make appointments, refill prescriptions, and get lab results. More than 75% of U.S. adults have online access.
The study is published in the June 25 edition of The Journal of the American Medical Association.