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VIDEO: Internet-based intervention shows antihypertensive efficacy

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Internet counseling addresses the time-crunch challenge

I love the REACH study. Hypertension is incredibly prevalent among the patients I see, and they often need three different antihypertensive drugs to control their blood pressure. Lifestyle interventions can be very effective at helping to lower blood pressure, but during the 10-minute visits I have with most of my patients, it’s hard for me to have much impact on their behavior.

What I especially like about the Internet-based counseling used in this study was its application of evidence-based approaches to change patient behavior. This was a well-designed and exciting trial.

Sandra J. Lewis, MD, chief of cardiology at Legacy Good Samaritan Hospital in Portland, Ore., made these comments during a press conference. She had no disclosures.



– Patients who regularly accessed 30 minute, Internet-based behavioral counseling videos cut their systolic blood pressure, compared with baseline over 1 year by an average 4 mm Hg more than control patients in a randomized, phase II study with 264 patients.

Electronic counseling (e-counseling) “enhanced the efficacy of usual care for hypertension,” Robert P. Nolan, Ph.D., said at the annual meeting of the American College of Cardiology.

“We hope to optimize the efficacy of medical treatments with a behavioral intervention,” said Dr. Nolan, who added that the magnitude of the added benefit from the e-counseling program was “like adding an additional antihypertensive medication.”

“We know antihypertensive treatments work, but compliance is a huge challenge” for health care providers, commented E. Magnus Ohman, MBBS, a professor and cardiologist at Duke University in Durham, N.C. “Having a new way to enhance compliance would be fantastic,” he said.

The Internet-based counseling program devised by Dr. Nolan and his associates consisted of a year-long series of 28 videos, each about 30 minutes long, that participants in the active arm accessed over the Internet. During the study, participants received a series of emailed messages that sent links to the videos on a set schedule over 12 months: During the first 4 months they received an emailed link weekly, during the next 4 months they received an emailed link to a new video every other week, and during the final 4 months of the intervention participants received emailed links once a month. Patients could access each video more than once if they wished, and they were free to share the links with any family members or friends who helped the patients with lifestyle management of their hypertension.

Patients in the e-counseling intervention arm received links to videos that focused on motivational messages and teaching cognitive behavioral skills. Patients in the control arm received emails with generic messages on blood pressure management and without links to videos.

The REACH (E-Counseling Promotes Blood Pressure Reduction and Therapeutic Lifestyle Change in Hypertension) study ran at four Canadian sites. It sent invitations to participate to 609 patients with stage 1 or 2 hypertension, with a blood pressure prior to treatment of 140/90-180/110 mm Hg. Among the invited patients, 264 elected to participate; 100 patients in the e-counseling arm and 97 control patients completed the 1-year program. Participants averaged 58 years of age, their average body mass index was 31 kg/m2, and 9% smoked. Their blood pressure at entry averaged 141/87 mm Hg, their average pulse pressure was about 54 mm Hg, and their average 10-year risk for a cardiovascular disease event, measured by the Framingham Risk Score, was about 16%. At entry, patients in the study received an average of 1.5 antihypertensive drugs each.

At the end of the 1-year program, systolic blood pressure fell by an average of 6 mm Hg from baseline among patients who completed the control program, and by an average of 10.1 mm Hg among the patients who completed the e-counseling arm, a statistically significant difference for one of the study’s primary endpoints. Change in pulse pressure from baseline showed an average 1.5–mm Hg drop in the control patients and an average 4.3–mm Hg decline in the e-counseling patients, another statistically significant difference for a second primary endpoint, reported Dr. Nolan, a clinical psychologist and director of the cardiac eHealth program at the University of Toronto.

A third primary endpoint was change in the Framingham Risk Score, which fell by an average of 1.9% after 12 months in the e-counseling patients and rose by an average of 0.2% among the controls.

The final primary endpoint was the change in diastolic blood pressure from baseline, which showed a better than 4–mm Hg incremental decline in the men who received e-counseling, compared with controls, but among women in the study, the drop in diastolic blood pressure from baseline was nearly the same – about 6 mm Hg – in both the controls and e-counseling patients.

“This tells us that we need to better tailor the [e-counseling] intervention to men and to women,” Dr. Nolan said in a video interview. He also envisions better tailoring of the e-counseling videos to various socioeconomic and ethnic groups. He plans to continue testing of a revised version of the e-counseling intervention in a larger, phase III study, but he also hopes that the intervention videos can soon be available at no charge for use in routine practice.

REACH received no commercial funding. Dr. Nolan had no disclosures.

The video associated with this article is no longer available on this site. Please view all of our videos on the MDedge YouTube channel.

On Twitter @mitchelzoler

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