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Chronic disease prevention and self-management are keys to reducing the prevalence and impact of heart disease. The National Heart, Blood and Lung Institute (NHBLI) celebrates American Heart Month in February to motivate Americans to adopt healthy lifestyles to prevent heart disease. A Planning Checklist and materials from the National Institute for Health (NIH) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encourage others to join the #OurHearts movement.

These organizations recognize hypertension is a major risk factor and the CDC reports one in two American adults are experiencing, or on medication to control, high blood pressure. Left unmanaged, hypertension leads to cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death in America and a risk factor for severe illness from COVID-19.

“The pandemic has certainly changed the way many people work in healthcare, particularly related to chronic disease management,” shared Jesse Rue, Pharm D, clinical coordinator for the About the Patient program and pharmacist at Heart of America Medical Center in Rugby, ND. “When COVID-19 hit and shutdowns began, many chronic disease patients deferred care or were unable to access care in-person.”

Health care providers have been resilient and developed innovative approaches to address these barriers. Many providers adapted their practices to accommodate social distancing guidelines and implement telehealth visits over a computer or phone video link. Chronic disease self-management programs, almost exclusively in-person prior to the pandemic, quickly transitioned to virtual platforms.

Additional examples of technology include the use of remote patient monitoring devices, which allows patients to transmit blood sugar and blood pressure results to a care team for real-time monitoring. The North Dakota Department of Health partnered with community pharmacies in Fargo and Rugby to pilot remote patient monitoring and saw an increase in screening for prediabetes, hypertension care and management, and self-measured blood pressure plan development.

One of the most exciting things about remote patient monitoring is that we can see patient data immediately and intervene quickly rather than waiting for months between appointments.” Rue expanded on the benefits of remote patient monitoring, “We have been thrilled to adjust diabetes medication several times within a single month with this program compared to previously making one adjustment at a three or four-month clinic follow-up.”

Virtual Annual Hypertension Summit
Sponsored by North Dakota Department of Health
Sign up to receive dates and details.

ECHO Series Topics:

  • Hypertension Management
  • Medication Management
  • Lifestyle Modification

Students from North Dakota State University’s Pharmacy program have been gaining experience with this emerging field and served as the primary recruiter and patient educator at the pilot site in Rugby.
Rue continued, “We believe pharmacy will be taking more responsibility for monitoring drug therapy and health data to ensure medications dispensed are working as intended and can get adjusted rapidly for the benefit of patients.”
Find resources and support for engaging communities in the #OurHearts Movement on the NHLBI Web site.