Every month is heart health month at WELL

February 12, 2020 - by Pamela Ellgen

 

The heart in the WELL logo is more than just clever design.

We are actively helping patients get the health care they need — during heart health month and all year-round. WELL clients use our patient communication platform to help their patients manage their cholesterol, attend routine screenings, and coordinate referrals to cardiologists.

Numerous other use-cases exist in the scientific literature illustrating how texting patients can improve heart health and reduce cardiovascular disease risk factors. Here are a handful that stand out.

Texting patients can increase screening rates

For patients with diabetes, controlling their illness reduces the chances of complications, such as a heart attack or stroke. Annual diabetic labs play a critical role in this process. But sometimes, patients forget. And coordinating and scheduling recalls presents an administrative challenge to provider offices.

Several WELL clients use our platform to send Campaigns — up to 1,000 messages at one time — to patients who are due for their annual screening. Patients who fit the criteria, as marked in the EHR, receive a message explaining the importance of preventive care. They’re also notified that lab orders have been placed and the location and hours of the health system’s laboratories.

The result is immense time saving for medical office staff and an increase in the number of patients who receive care.

Texting patients improves CVD risk factors

Even for patients who don’t attend routine screenings, supportive text messages can have a significant impact on cardiovascular risk factors. A 2015 study published in JAMA examined the effect of sending patients semi-personalized support messages. The single-blind, randomized clinical trial that recruited 710 patients with proven coronary heart disease.

In addition to their usual care, patients in the intervention group received four text messages a week for six months. The texts offered advice, motivation, and support to change certain lifestyle behaviors known to have an impact on CVD.

Although patients couldn’t respond to the messages, they had a measurable impact. After six months, participants had significantly lower LDL-C, reduced blood pressure and BMI, more physical activity, and a significant reduction in smoking.

Texting patients improves medication adherence

People with known cardiovascular disease have five times greater risk for experiencing a cardiovascular event than those without CVD. Medications can reduce that risk — but only if patients take them.

In a 2017 systematic review, British researchers described medication adherence as “sub-optimal.” That’s one way of putting it. Scientists from Columbia University Medical Center estimate that as many as 50 percent of patients with cardiovascular disease don’t take their medications as prescribed.

The 2017 review included seven randomized controlled trials that aimed to discover whether texting patients could improve medication adherence. All but one found that texting patients increased the likelihood they’ll follow their medication treatment plan.

In one study, the intervention group received personalized, automated messages every day over a 24-week mobile health. At the end of the trial, participants in the intervention group had a significantly greater medication adherence score. In another study, patients who received text messages had a higher percentage of correct doses taken on schedule. Researchers concluded the mHealth interventions show promise in promoting medication adherence.

Automated texting can guide patients in emergencies

All of these strategies can help a patient reduce risk factors and manage their condition. But what about the patients experiencing an emergency? Texting can help here, too.

When a patient sends a text message to their provider through WELL, our natural language processing can sense the possibility of a heart attack. Here’s how it works:

Imagine Brian is out for a hike with his family on a Saturday morning. Suddenly, he feels an immense amount of pressure in his chest and breaks out in a cold sweat. He reaches into his pocket and texts his doctor’s office, “Hey, I’m having chest pain. Should I come in?”

Within seconds, the practice responds through WELL, “Hi Brian, it appears you could be having a medical emergency. If that is the case please dial 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.”

The response can occur outside of business hours, ensuring patients get the care they need whatever the time of day. Even during normal clinic hours, it may take a staff member a few minutes to answer each message. During a heart attack, that could be a few minutes too long.

Texting patients is scalable

In all of these studies and in our experience helping health systems communicate with their patients, one thing stands out: texting interventions are scalable. Whether you send a message to 10 patients or 10,000, the investment of time is virtually the same. WELL delivers the right message at the right time to deliver the care that patients need — during heart health month and every day. ♥

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