Watching Your Cholesterol? Virtual Doctor Visits Work Just as Well

By   |  December 7, 2023

By Dennis Thompson HealthDay Reporter  |  Copyright © 2023 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

THURSDAY, Dec. 7, 2023 (HealthDay News) -- In a win for telemedicine, new research shows that folks fighting high cholesterol benefit just as much from online coaching as they do from in-person visits with a dietitian.

“This study reinforces the idea that comparable clinical outcomes can be achieved using the virtual format,” said lead researcher Dr. Shannon Zoulek, a resident physician at University of Michigan Health.

“Improving cholesterol levels may reduce cardiovascular events, and having additional options to access treatment will benefit patients who seek treatment,” Zoulek added in a Michigan news release.

More than 20% of American adults are currently using telemedicine, taking their health appointments online rather than traveling to an office, the researchers said in background notes.

For the study, the investigators tracked more than 250 patients seen by a registered dietitian between early 2019 and late 2022 at the Preventative Cardiology Clinic of the University of Michigan’s Frankel Cardiovascular Center.

Around one in five patients opted for a virtual visit, while the rest had face-to-face visits with their dietitian, the researchers said. 

Patients who received this diet coaching experienced significant declines in their “bad” LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, both of which decrease the risk of heart disease.

In the end, the researchers found no significant difference in results between telemedicine and in-person visits.

The new study was published recently in the Journal of Clinical Lipidology.

“Access to nutrition care is crucial, and our study shows just how effective virtual care can be for helping improve cholesterol levels,” said study co-author Beverly Kuznicki, a cardiovascular dietitian and allied health intermediate supervisor at University of Michigan Health.

“Virtual care welcomes the dietitian into the patient’s kitchen where the two can work together to come up with a nutrition plan which focuses on foods that are already in their pantry and refrigerator,” Kuznicki said.

National surveys have found that telehealth visits can improve access for minorities, poor patients, and patients who live in remote areas, the researchers said.

“The expansion of virtual care can be considered as a silver lining to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said senior study author Dr. Eric Brandt, director of preventative cardiology at the University of Michigan Health Frankel Cardiovascular Center.

“Virtual care has many benefits that can help overcome some barriers to traditional care,” Brandt added. “It can help increase access to individuals that have transportation limitations or live far away from in-person care centers.” 

More information

The Health Resources & Services Administration has more about telehealth.

SOURCE: Michigan Medicine-University of Michigan, news release, Dec. 5, 2023