According to a study presented this week at the annual meeting of the American College of Cardiology in Chicago, patients in underserved areas who communicated with physicians via telemedicine were able to reduce their risk for heart disease, United Press International reports. Across four years, researchers at Temple University’s School of Medicine in Philadelphia randomly assigned participants to a control group or a telemedicine group, providing subjects in both groups a device to measure blood pressure, a pedometer and resources on the role of fitness in heart disease prevention. Both groups were asked to make regular clinic visits, and members of the telemedicine group were required to regularly transmit blood pressure, weight and pedometer data via the Internet to a team of cardiologists, who then issued feedback and educational information. Though participants in both groups experienced significant reductions in blood pressure, blood lipids and cardiovascular disease risk scores, patients in the telemedicine group experienced the greatest reductions and took a more proactive approach to their care. In light of the findings, the researchers suggest that combining telemedicine services with traditional office visits can improve patient-provider communication and overall care quality. To that end, they suggest that the technology could help bridge the “medical divide” in prove particularly valuable in rural or underserved areas by enabling patient-provider communication “with less cost and time commitment than frequent [physician] visits” (UPI, 4/1/08; Temple University release, 3/31/08).