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Combining Internet With Office Visits Cut Heart Attack Risks

Enhanced doctor-patient communication showed big drops in blood pressure, disease scores

SUNDAY, March 30 (HealthDay News) -- Whether it's done in person or electronically, good doctor-patient communication helps reduce the risk of heart disease, says a Temple University School of Medicine study.

The four-year study included rural and urban patients who were at risk for cardiovascular disease but were otherwise healthy. They were divided into two groups, a control group and a telemedicine group.

Patients in both groups were given a device to measure their blood pressure and a pedometer to record how many steps they took each day, along with advice on exercise and its benefits in preventing heart disease.

The telemedicine patients also used an Internet-based health reporting system to regularly transmit their blood pressure, weight and exercise data to cardiologists, who used the same system to provide feedback and educational information.

Both groups of patients showed significant reductions in blood pressure, lipid levels and cardiovascular disease scores, and were able to walk further distances.

Overall, the results show that good communication -- whether it's done in the office or over the Internet -- between patients and doctors helps prevent cardiovascular disease, said Alfred Bove, professor emeritus of medicine at Temple's School of Medicine and chief of cardiology at Temple University Hospital.

He noted that telemedicine does have certain advantages.

"With rising health-care costs, a telemedicine system can encourage communication between patients and their doctors with less cost and time commitment than frequent doctor visits," Bove said in a prepared statement.

He believes telemedicine may help underserved patients lower their risk of cardiovascular disease and bridge the "medical divide" between treatment and outcomes for lower- and upper-income patients.

The study was expected to be presented Sunday at the American College of Cardiology annual meeting, in Chicago.

More information

The American Heart Association outlines common cardiovascular diseases.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Temple University, news release, March 30, 2008

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