Mayo Clinic will present results of a small study at the upcoming annual meeting of the American College of Cardiology in Chicago that shows that adding digital tools helps people recovering from a heart attack lose more weight quickly, compared with those receiving regular cardiac rehabilitation.
The study looked at 80 patients, who were on average 68 years, over a 12 week period and found that those using specially designed health tools on their smartphones or a web portal in addition to regular cardiac rehab lost more than four times as much weight compared to those that received cardiac rehab alone. These patients were part of the the program having displayed acute coronary syndrome that includes heart attack or unstable angina.
In that 12 week period, cardiac rehab patients lost 2 pounds while those that received digital health tools in addition to rehab lost 9.
"We were surprised by the magnitude of difference between the two groups," said Dr. Robert Jay Widmer, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, and lead author of the study, in a news release from American College of Cardiology. "These results are exciting because they demonstrate improvement in cardiovascular risk factors over and above guideline-based cardiac rehabilitation."
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Cardiac rehab typically is a 12-week program tailored to individual patients that involve supervsed exercise, nutrition counseling, stress management, smoking cessation help and education about how patients can improve their cardiac health and take control of their disease.
Widmer noted that the control group likely lost weight because they were required to alter their dietary habits, exercise and report their activities as part of the rehab program.
Interestingly, the Mayo study did not use off-the-shelf, commercial mhealth tools. Instead cardiologists compiled information — semi weekly educational messages, videos and articles with related quizzes about cardiac friendly lifestyles, tips, as well as a platform to log and track daily exercise and diet — and teamed up with Mayo's IT department to create a mobile app and Web-based portal.
Patients on the cardiac rehab program alone attended 30-to 90-min cardiac rehab sessions focused mainly on exercise, three times a week. Those on the digital health arm were asked to record their exercise and diet information twice a week, but the study found that many did it daily. In other words, compliance to an exercise regimen and dietary recommendations was likely improved for those using digital tools.
"With the poor rates of adherence to cardiac rehabilitation and increasing use of mobile/digital technologies, it is plausible that digital health and mHealth could offer a proven preventative solution to help patients with cardiovascular disease," Widmer added in the statement. "The integration of technology into the clinical practice has the potential to affect rehospitalizations of these patients too."
These results show that incorporating digital tools in clinical practice could lower cost of treating chronic diseases while hospitals could avoid Medicare penalties for cardiac patients being readmitted within 30 days of a previous discharge.