Effectiveness of User- and Expert-Driven Web-based Hypertension Programs: an RCT
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INTRODUCTION: The effectiveness of self-guided Internet-based lifestyle counseling (e-counseling) varies, depending on treatment protocol. Two dominant procedures in e-counseling are expert- and user-driven. The influence of these procedures on hypertension management remains unclear. The objective was to assess whether blood pressure improved with expert-driven or user-driven e-counseling over control intervention in patients with hypertension over a 4-month period. STUDY DESIGN: This study used a three-parallel group, double-blind randomized controlled design. SETTING/PARTICIPANTS: In Toronto, Canada, 128 participants (aged 35-74 years) with hypertension were recruited. Participants were recruited using online and poster advertisements. Data collection took place between June 2012 and June 2014. Data were analyzed from October 2014 to December 2016. INTERVENTION: Controls received a weekly e-mail newsletter regarding hypertension management. The expert-driven group was prescribed a weekly exercise and diet plan (e.g., increase 1,000 steps/day this week). The user-driven group received weekly e-mail, which allowed participants to choose their intervention goals (e.g.,  feel more confident to change my lifestyle, or  self-help tips for exercise or a heart healthy diet). MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Primary outcome was systolic blood pressure measured at baseline and 4-month follow-up. Secondary outcomes included cholesterol, 10-year Framingham cardiovascular risk, daily steps, and dietary habits. RESULTS: Expert-driven groups showed a greater systolic blood pressure decrease than controls at follow-up (expert-driven versus control: -7.5 mmHg, 95% CI= -12.5, -2.6, p=0.01). Systolic blood pressure reduction did not significantly differ between user- and expert-driven. Expert-driven compared with controls also showed a significant improvement in pulse pressure, cholesterol, and Framingham risk score. The expert-driven intervention was significantly more effective than both user-driven and control groups in increasing daily steps and fruit intake. CONCLUSIONS: It may be advisable to incorporate an expert-driven e-counseling protocol in order to accommodate participants with greater motivation to change their lifestyle behaviors, but more studies are needed. TRIAL REGISTRATION: This study is registered at www.clinicaltrials.gov NCT03111836.