By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
With the covid-19 pandemic, remote medical care has increased dramatically, both in Mexico and around the world.
But while being able to consult your doctor over your computer or smartphone definitely has its advantages, there is still a serious downside to telemedicine: Many patients simply are not getting the medical tests they should.
One key concern is a slack off in blood pressure monitoring.
As more and more primary care visits go on line, fewer and fewer Mexicans are getting their blood pressure checked regularly.
In fact, according to an article published earlier this month in JAMA Network Open, the number of in-person primary care visits in the United States dropped by nearly half, and while there are no comparable figures for Mexico, most primary physicians here have reported that they are seeing far fewer patients now than they did before the pandemic began.
“Telemedicine is a great tool, and has been particularly useful for many patients during the covid-19 lockdowns,” said primary care physician Melissa Castro, who is now seeing many of her patients via internet.
“But there is only so much we can do over a video call. There are essential clinical tests that should be given regularly, like having your blood pressure checked, and that is where in-person visits and personal revisions come into play.”
In Mexico, where, according to the Mexican Society of Cardiologists, over half of adult deaths are due to cardiovascular disease (CVD), monitoring blood pressure regularly is a crucial step in controlling high blood pressure and other forms of cardiovascular disease.
Easy-to-use home blood pressure monitors, such as the newly released Braun ExactFit 3 Upper Arm Monitor for Home, can provide clinically proven professional accuracy with a convenient color-coded instant data interpretation that also detects irregular heartbeat.
And the Braun ExactFit 3 has an additional feature that averages the last three measurements to provide a better representation of heart health over time, as well as a soft inflation technology that allows for more comfortable measurements.
“In most cases, heart disease is preventable or treatable with early diagnosis and proper medical intervention, as well as serious lifestyle changes,” Castro said. “But frequent monitoring is key to controlling hypertension.”
The problem is, she said, that most people in Mexico with CVD are not even aware of the fact that they have the disease.
“Four in every 10 adult Mexicans have high blood pressure,” added internal medicine specialist Erick Pérez Valero, “and 72 percent them do not even know they have the condition.”
But unless patients have monitors at home, blood pressure can’t be measured via telemedicine.
That is why, just like a thermometer and oximeter, a self-administered blood pressure monitor should be a part of any basic home healthcare kit.
The good news is that, with proper treatment, regular monitoring and lifestyle changes, most cases of hypertension can be controlled.
“Home monitoring can help patients keep tabs on their blood pressure in a familiar setting and make sure that their medication is working,” Castro said, “and knowing your blood pressure levels is important for your telemedicine physician to be able to provide a better diagnosis of your condition.”
Castro also warned that blood pressure levels could be on the rise during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We keep hearing the same thing from our patients,” she said. “They say that they have gained some weight or are less active than before the pandemic.”
That makes for a double-edged sword if patients are not regularly checking their blood pressure.
Castro said that for many patients — especially those with mobility or transportation problems — virtual visits will remain a major practice even after the pandemic subsides.
“Telemedicine is here to stay,” she said, “so we need patients to help out by monitoring their vital signs themselves at home as much as possible so everyone can stay healthy.”
…Oct. 16, 2020