The Impact Of mHealth On Heart Disease

Mobile health technologies have had a significant impact on a number of conditions.  One of the more interesting areas is that of heart disease, but the jury remains out on their effectiveness.  For instance, a few years ago, a study that was conducted by the American Heart Association, saw evidence from mobile health technologies analyzed to see how big an impact they had on reducing the risk of heart disease.

“The review found that the research on mobile health technologies is still in the very early stages, and more research is needed to understand the role of mobile solutions for cardiovascular disease prevention,” the authors say.

Has the situation improved since then?  That was the question posed by a second paper published in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology, which highlights the progress that has been made, and the work that is still required.

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide, so it’s perhaps no surprise that a growing number of mobile health technologies have emerged to try and improve matters.  The study, which was led by the University of Sydney, suggests the potential for change is considerable.

“mHealth interventions are a novel, exciting, and expanding field in medicine that will potentially transform healthcare delivery by improving access to treatments that would otherwise require frequent clinic or hospital visits. There are already an overwhelming number of cardiovascular mHealth options available to consumers. However, the utility of applications to improve health outcomes has been poorly evaluated. There is limited research evidence for their effectiveness in modifying objective measures of health, and app development and provision are largely unregulated,” the researchers say.

Under the microscope

The researchers reviewed numerous previous studies into the effectiveness of mHealth interventions, the majority of which utilized apps or text messaging based interventions.  There appear to have been very few randomized control trials conducted in a primary setting, with the few that do exist examining text message interventions.

The largest of these was a 12-month intervention to several hundred Chinese people who received personalized text messages promoting various lifestyle changes to reduce their cardiovascular risk.  The intervention did appear to work however, with the intervention group scoring significantly lower than a control group on 10-year cardiovascular risk.

In secondary care however, there have been rather more studies exploring effectiveness.  One such saw text-based interventions delivered via systems such as TEXT ME and Text4Heart.  The TEXT ME study showed that text message interventions for heart attack survivors can have an impact on a number of key health risk factors for cholesterol, blood pressure, weight, exercise, diet, and smoking.

“mHealth has great potential to prevent heart disease, but there are unanswered questions about how to optimize it and maintain engagement with patients,” the authors say. “Select studies such as TEXT ME, show that mHealth can improve overall heart disease risk. However, our goal needs to be high quality and effective mHealth interventions. Importantly, future mHealth producers should collaborate with clinicians and regulatory agencies to ensure the interventions are safe and effective and outcome measures standardized.”

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