So says a study out in JAMA today from Group Health of Puget Sound. They randomly divided high blood pressure patients into three groups. Being Group Health members they all had online access to the MyGroupHealth site and services, but the second group got blood pressure cuffs and training on the site. That made no difference. But the third group got all that and online counseling from pharmacists about every two weeks.
After 12 months, about one-third of the patients in the first two groups achieved normal blood pressure. However, with the Internet-based pharmacist care, more than half the patients got their blood pressure down to normal.
Which is both good and bad news. Good news because it’s somewhat scalable to have online counseling from clinicians, in that it’s more convenient for patients and clinicians. Bad news because it’s much, much more scalable to have computers do all the work. But currently computers alone, even when the patients are given more training and services don’t do much better than general medical treatment.
Much of what needs to be done to make care management effective is to figure out how to replace and augment the most precious resource (skilled humans) with a cheaper one (less skilled humans, possibly a long way away, and computers). But at least this combination has been shown to be effective.