On paper, U.S. adult hypertension prevalence recently increased significantly due to new measures from the American Heart Association. Previously, CDC studies indicated approximately one in three U.S. adults suffers from hypertension. Now, however, following the AHA’s new guidelines released November 13, 2017, the proportion is closer to half. Providing care for half the adult population for one chronic health condition is a daunting challenge. The stakes are even higher with a condition that is an indicator or precursor of additional problems such as heart attacks and strokes. Enter telemedicine. The time and cost savings potential of telehealth in care management with hypertension other chronic health conditions for patients and healthcare professionals is tremendous. On the surface, wide-scale telemedicine implementation for hypertension seems a no-brainer. As is too often the case, however, digging deeper into the effectiveness of care and health technology indicates telemedicine is not a quick fix slam dunk easy win.
Researchers from the Texas State University School of Health Administration published the results of their review of the facilitators and barriers to implementing telemedicine in treating hypertension in JMIR Medical Informatics. Earlier studies focused on the benefits of telemedicine in healthcare facilities. The TSU study sought to find how it worked with patients self-managing chronic conditions, specifically hypertension. The research is a meta-analysis — a study of past studies — searching both the Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied health Literature Complete (CINAHL Complete) and PubMed. The Texas researchers found common facilitators, factors that worked in support of telemedicine, in their analysis. The facilitators included increased access, increase in health and quality, patient knowledge and involvement, technology growth with remote monitoring, cost-effectiveness, and increased convenience/ease. However, the barriers to successful telemedicine implementation were also apparent. The barriers included lack of evidence, self-management difficult to maintain, no long-term results/more areas to address, and long-term added workload commitment.
Over time, telemedicine’s benefits have a strong, positive outlook; the alternative is unsustainable. Half the U.S. adult population traveling to health care facilities or receiving home visits for checkups and consults on a monthly basis is a non-starter. Identifying and dealing with or working around the barriers to telemedicine sooner rather than later is the best way to speed the shift.