Can digital health programs help people manage their blood pressure? A recent study testing Hello Heart’s programs showed some promise.
In a large, observational study published in JAMA Network Open, 84% of people with stage II hypertension who used Hello Heart’s program were able to reduce their blood pressure, and maintain it over three years. They saw a mean systolic blood pressure reduction of 20.9 mm Hg.
People were included in the study if they had access to Hello Heart’s program through their employer and recorded at least two blood pressure measurements in the app during the three years. Through the program, they get a connected blood pressure cuff and Hello Heart’s smartphone app, which gives them medication adherence reminders and access to coaching.
The study was funded by Hello Heart, and two employees were listed as authors.
After 12 weeks of the program, about 70% of users with stage I hypertension and 85% of users with stage II hypertension were able to reduce their systolic blood pressure.
A smaller portion of participants improved their blood pressure control, meaning they saw their systolic or diastolic blood pressure drop below the threshold for that stage. That includes about 58.7% of stage II participants after 12 weeks and 51.2% of stage I participants.
“High blood pressure is one of the most common health problems, and one of the biggest risk factors for heart disease. Yet we see time and again that we are not doing a great job getting everyone diagnosed and under control,” said Dr. Alexis Beatty, the study’s corresponding author and an associate professor and cardiologist at the University of California- San Francisco. “I see a huge opportunity to improve outcomes and prevent people from having heart attacks and strokes.”
The study followed a total of 28,000 adults ages 43 to 58 who voluntarily participated in Hello Heart’s program, accessing it through one of 21 employers.
Since there was no control group, it’s difficult to know how much benefit users got just from knowing they were being monitored. Most of the study’s participants were middle-aged adults with employer-sponsored health insurance, meaning the results might not be broadly applicable to older or lower-income adults.
In the future, Beatty said she’d like to see bigger studies that look at long-term blood pressure control using digital therapeutics. She’d also like to see whether digital programs can affect other health outcomes, such as reducing heart attacks or strokes.