JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – When Will Townes’ blood pressure needed managing, he started on a prescription drug but wasn’t getting the results he wanted to be his healthiest self.

“It was not regulating my blood pressure at all, and it was making it worse,” said Townes. “My mom told me I needed to go to a specialist, and that’s why I contacted Dr. (Donald “Trey”) Clark.”

Townes’ wife, Tiffany, accompanied him to his appointment with Clark, a cardiologist and associate professor in the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s Division of Cardiology. “The first thing he told me was that I was on the wrong medicine,” Townes remembered.

Clark asked Townes if he’d like to join a University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) telehealth program that monitors hypertension patients remotely, with providers regularly communicating with participants to keep tabs on their blood pressure and work with them to bring it to a more healthy level.

“My wife said, ‘You’d better,’” Townes joked. “I was the first person enlisted in the program.”

He focused on his hypertension by taking part in a six-month study that examined how monitoring blood pressure levels through telemedicine results in better outcomes for patients. One of 120 people in the study, Townes used a blood pressure cuff to get regular readings that were transmitted from an iPad into his UMMC medical record through Bluetooth technology.

UMMC offers remote patient monitoring, or RPM, a documented way to improve the health of patients who live with chronic illnesses such as hypertension, diabetes and heart disease. It’s conducted at UMMC through the Center for Telehealth, where a dedicated team monitors the health of hundreds of patients who cope with those conditions.

Although data from many national studies have been published detailing RPM in predominately white populations with higher average incomes, that’s less often the case with populations that look more like Mississippi, which also includes a mix of African American, rural and low-income residents.

Results of UMMC’s study, which concluded in June 2020, appeared Nov. 10 in Hypertension, the journal of the American Heart Association.

“We’ve never published clinical outcomes for the remote patient monitoring (RPM) hypertension program,” said Clark, who also serves as medical director of RPM. “The major take home is that this study demonstrates that telehealth treatment strategies for hypertension are effective in underserved populations.”

Patients are required to submit their readings at least 16 days of the month and to set goals for a reduction in their blood pressure.