By Jim Pittman, Director of Medicare Advantage Communications, Ochsner Health Plan and Liz Miller Communication Manager at GetSetUp.
Digital medicine uses technologies such as hardware and software as tools for measurement and intervention in human health to support treatments, recovery, disease prevention, and health promotion. One of the latest ways they are being used is to help control hypertension.
Hypertension is a major risk factor for heart disease, the leading cause of death in the U.S. It also contributes significantly to stroke, the fifth-leading cause of death in the US.
High blood pressure often has no signs or symptoms. If not controlled, it can cause damage to the eyes, brain, heart, blood vessels, and kidney. It occurs when the pressure inside the arteries is higher than it should be.
According to 2020 “America’s Health Rankings”, Louisiana ranks 43rd in the U.S. for the prevalence of hypertension, with 67.5% the state’s residents over the age of 65 reporting high blood pressure.
To help combat this in Louisiana the Ochsner Health Plan has partnered with Ochsner Digital Medicine to help members control their hypertension. The program will help members to manage their high blood pressure at home using a digital device to send readings to their Digital Medicine team who will adjust the members care, as needed.“For those enrolled in the Digital Medicine program, we typically see nearly half of our members with uncontrolled hypertension get in control in the first 90 days, and we see fewer ER visits and hospital admissions in that same early time frame,” said David Houghton, MD, Ochsner Health’s Medical Director of Digital Medicine and Telehealth System Chair. “We recognize that if we keep members in the program, get their conditions under control, and reduce complications taking them to the hospital, then this program effectively improves the state’s overall health.”
Because it has no warning signs or symptoms, monitoring blood pressure is imperative, because it’s the only way to know for sure if it is under control. Once diagnosed, however, it can be controlled through a combination of diet, exercise, and medication. Recently revised guidelines lowered the cutoff for what counts as high blood pressure, which means that even more people may unknowingly have it.
“Once patients are in the [Digital Medicine] program, they stay in, as our attrition rate is incredibly low,” said Dr. Houghton. “They come in and stay to enjoy the benefits of the relationships they build and maintain. ”
Ochsner Digital Medicine combines evidence-based medication management to accompany personalized health coaching with an ongoing data program, which is managed through a digital device and the patient’s smartphone. This chronic-disease outpatient management differs significantly from a traditional, episodic patient-doctor relationship. This means that through monitoring people can work to prevent episodes and medical stakeholders have ongoing data to help them understand medical issues in the event of an episode.
“The long game is to beat this epidemic of chronic disease,” said Dr. Houghton. “We need patients to get in control early and stay in control forever. That is how we are going to lower the complications of these conditions and make our community healthier.”
Digital Medicine is one more great way to use technology to stay healthier and ensure preventative care prior to any health issues. Perhaps it’s worth looking at your plan to see if this is an option for you?
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