April 16 (UPI) -- Smartphone-based devices designed to monitor blood pressure following a heart attack may be convenient and as effective as routine care at helping people keep their blood pressure under control, a study published Thursday in JAMA Network Open has found.
For the analysis, researchers at Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands evaluated the impact of AliveCor, a smartphone-compatible, battery-powered device the size of a credit card that tracks users' blood pressure, or BP.
While AliveCor accurately recorded readings over a one-year period, the researchers found that roughly the same percentage of users had "controlled BP" as those in the control group, who were not managed using the device.
Essentially, this means the device was no more and no less effective at helping heart attack sufferers maintain a healthy BP than routine check-ups.
Based on these findings, "it is feasible to implement a remote monitoring solution in clinical practice and that outcomes are not different," co-author Dr. Roderick W. Treskes, a postdoctoral researcher at Leiden University Medical Center, told UPI.
"This means that we should use eHealth in clinical practice, especially during this COVID-19 pandemic, to continue non-urgent but nevertheless important care delivery to our patients," he added. "If we wait until the pandemic is over, serious health damage will occur in many patients."
Roughly 80 million adults in the United States have high blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association, and approximately 70 percent of Americans use smartphones, research suggests. Hence, the potential value of technology like AliveCor and apps used to monitor heart health.
For the study, researchers enrolled 200 participants -- with median age just under 60 -- who had a heart attack, or myocardial infarction. Half the participants had their BP monitored over a one-year period using AliveCor and three other devices -- including a weight scale, heart-rhythm monitor and step counter -- while the other half had routine check-ups four times during the study period.
After a year, 79 percent of the participants who used the smartphone-compatible devices had "controlled BP," compared to 76 percent in the routine care group. General satisfaction with care was the same between groups, and all-cause death rates were 2 percent in both groups.
In all, 20 participants -- eight in the smartphone group -- were hospitalized for "non-fatal adverse cardiac events."
Among the device users, 32 percent submitted measurements weekly, while 63 percent sent in data for at least 80 percent of the weeks they participated in the trial. More than 90 percent of the participants were satisfied with the smartphone technology.
"There are many ways in which remote care can be improved and we are continuously working on improving our solution," Treskes said. "We will teach computers to do the majority of data checks and with AI, they will be able to detect patterns in healthcare data which will turn out to be of predictive value and thus allow for prevention."