Clinics that excel in BP control to get national recognition

Timothy M. Smith , Contributing News Writer

About 80 million U.S. adults have high blood pressure, and the number of people dying of high blood pressure and related conditions is rising, even though hypertension can be easily treated using evidence-based guidelines. A national initiative involving hundreds of medical practices aims to improve practices’ blood pressure control rates from the current national average of 54 percent to 70 percent or higher. Those that attain high levels of control stand to gain recognition from the initiative’s leaders. The first step is knowing your practice’s control rate.

The Target: BP™ Recognition Program is a joint effort by the AMA and the American Heart Association (AHA). Participating practices will work to achieve high levels of blood pressure control using the latest AHA guidelines on hypertension, aiming for readings of less than 140/90 mm Hg for each patient, with goals adjusted as new data drives guideline revisions.

“Improving blood pressure control rates will save many more lives,” AMA President Andrew W. Gurman, MD, said in a statement. “Even a 10 percent increase in the number of people treated for hypertension would lead to the prevention of an additional 14,000 deaths each year. That is exactly why we launched our Target: BP initiative: to improve health outcomes and save thousands of lives.”

Target: BP™ features numerous tools and resources to help practices and patients control hypertension, including a treatment algorithm developed by the AHA, the American College of Cardiology and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

AHA field staff representatives work with participating practices to create customized implementation plans for improving patient blood pressures. Some organizations see improvements by creating and publishing specified reports that track performance and encourage compliance with treatment algorithms and plans. Others create protocols for taking blood pressure readings that help prevent measurement errors.

More than 400 practices have signed on to the Target: BP Recognition Program, and the AHA will honor 68 health systems as early adopters during its annual Scientific Sessions conference. Beginning in 2017, the AHA and the AMA will offer special recognition—including on the Target: BP™ website and in a national publicity campaign—to those that attain blood pressure control rates of 70 percent or higher.

Health care leaders across the country have noted that improving blood pressure control will take a concerted, focused and ongoing effort by physicians and health care teams. Target: BP™ complements and expands on existing blood pressure improvement initiatives, including the CDC’s Million Hearts® initiative that is aimed at preventing 1 million heart attacks and strokes by 2017.

Together, these national efforts point to the need for physicians and health care teams to prioritize blood pressure control. Too many practices are not aware of what their blood pressure control rates are. The control rate is the share of a practice’s adult patients with a diagnosis of hypertension whose blood pressure is below 140/90 mm Hg.

“Only about half of those with high blood pressure are achieving our recommended blood pressure reading of below 140/90 mm Hg,” AHA President Steven Houser, PhD, senior associate dean of research at Temple University in Philadelphia, said in a statement. “With Target: BP, we hope to streamline information, resources and tools for providers and patients, to help keep blood pressure under control. By controlling blood pressure, we can potentially prevent progression to other serious threats to heart and brain health.”

Data collection will be a linchpin in the Target: BP™ Recognition Program. Once a year, participating medical groups will submit information on their adult patient populations:

  • Number of patients by age group
  • Number of patients by ethnicity, if available
  • Number of patients with hypertension
  • Number of patients with hypertension with blood pressure controlled to below 140/90 mm Hg

There will be two levels of recognition in 2017: “Participation,” for medical groups registering with Target: BP™ and submitting data, and “Achievement,” for medical groups with 70 percent or more of patients with hypertension with blood pressures controlled to below 140/90 in 2016. Participants will be notified of recognition status by October 2017.

Registration is open to all medical practices.