|By Jenn Roberts
Vice President Employer Health Strategy
The pandemic has brought cardiovascular health to the forefront. Control of blood pressure worsened with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. As employers evaluate their digital health and benefits strategy, here are 4 reasons why they should prioritize heart health:
1. Increased risk of hospitalization and mortality
A 2021 study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association estimated that 63% of COVID-19 hospitalizations through November 2020 were attributable to 4 major cardiometabolic conditions – diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and heart failure. Of these, 26.2% were estimated to be attributable to hypertension.1 Improving cardiometabolic health could have an impact in reducing COVID-19 hospitalizations.
Additionally, heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the U.S. Hypertension was the most common comorbidity in COVID-19 patients and a top 4 comorbidity associated with COVID-19 deaths.
2. Care avoidance or delay during the pandemic can lead to high costs
According to the CDC, by June 2020, 41% of people were delaying or avoiding care because of COVID-19. Delays in care can increase the risk of catastrophic outcomes, delays in diagnosis, or lack of controlling chronic conditions such as hypertension. Hypertension is one of the most important risk factors for the development of cardiovascular disease, and early detection and management can be key to reducing development of complications and potentially saving lives. 2017 data estimated the cost of cardiovascular disease was $363 billion, which has continued to increase.
3. Rising blood pressure
Stress can impact hypertension and research shows rises in blood pressure in U.S. adults during COVID-19. A January 2022 publication comparing pre-pandemic to pandemic periods showed an increase of 1.10 to 2.50 in systolic blood pressure readings. A 2-mmHg higher systolic BP is associated with significant increases in mortality from stroke and ischemic heart disease among middle-aged adults.
4. Health equity, accessibility and inclusion
The rise of digital health helped many patients maintain access to care during the pandemic. But the pandemic also brought to light disparities when different groups have the same illness or disease.
Chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, tend to occur at higher rates in specific racial-ethnic groups, in large part due to social determinants of health like economic stability, community safety, and education. They are the most prevalent and dangerous comorbidities in patients with COVID-19.
How digital health can bridge the gap
Hello Heart, a digital solution for heart health management, can support management of this COVID-19 comorbidity through blood pressure tracking, medication adherence, and digital coaching for lifestyle modifications. Digital health can keep your members engaged with their health, monitor their chronic condition, and empower them to reach out to their provider. Hello Heart is clinically proven to decrease systolic blood pressure by 21 points for users with stage 2 hypertension.
The clinical outcomes of a reduction in blood pressure translate into significant savings. Validation Institute’s population health scientists verified a cost savings of $1,865 per Hello Heart participant per year, or 19% of total medical claims spending. The substantial cost savings is largely the result of enabling participants to focus on positive lifestyle changes, medication adherence, and preventative care, while avoiding expensive surgeries, imaging, and ER visits, and having shorter hospitalizations.
Artificial intelligence can use a patient’s profile to give personalized insights – and potentially save lives. Cardiac events in women differ from men, and are often misinterpreted as “anxiety attacks” that lead to 2X in mortality rate for women. Hello Heart provides gender-specific alerts on typical symptoms for women and men with potential heart attacks to catch catastrophic events in time. Hello Heart’s solutions are available in Spanish and are eligible for first dollar coverage, which can help bridge disparities in income, education, and language barriers. Digital health can help support diverse teams and drive health equity.
Learn about Hello Heart’s proven clinical outcomes and validated cost savings here.
 O’Hearn M, Liu J, Cudhea F, Micha R, Mozffarian D. Coronavirus Disease 2019 Hospitalizations Attributable to Cardiometabolic Conditions in the United States: A Comparative Risk Assessment Analysis. Journal of the American Heart Association. 2021;10:e019259.
 Ng WH, Tipih T, Makoah N, et al. Comorbidities in SARS-CoV-2 Patients: a Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. ASM Journals. 2021;12:03647-20.
 Czeisler MÉ, Marynak K, Clarke KE, et al. Delay or Avoidance of Medical Care Because of COVID-19–Related Concerns — United States, June 2020. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2020;69:1250–1257.
 Heart Disease Facts. CDC Web site. https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm. Published September 27, 2021.
 Laffin LJ, Kaufman HW, Chen Z, et al. Rise in Blood Pressure Observed Among US Adults During the COVID-19 Pandemic. AHA Journals. 2022;145:235–237.
 Lewington S, Clarke R, Qizilbash N, Peto R, Collins R; Prospective Studies Collaboration. Age-specific relevance of usual blood pressure to vascular mortality: a meta-analysis of individual data for one million adults in 61 prospective studies. Lancet. 2002;360:1903–1913.
 Reflections on 2021: COVID-19, CVD and Health Inequity. Cardiology Magazine. https://www.acc.org/latest-in-cardiology/articles/2021/12/01/01/42/guest-editorial-reflections-on-2021-covid-19-cvd-and-health-inequity. Published December 16, 2021.
 Gazit T, Gutman M, Beatty A. Assessment of Hypertension Control Among Adults Participating in a Mobile Technology Blood Pressure Self-management Program. JAMA Network Open. 2021;4(10):e2127008.