CHICAGO, Nov. 18, 2019 – With nearly half of U.S. adults living with high blood pressure, today, the American Medical Association (AMA) and American Heart Association (AHA) announced new survey results emphasizing the need for health care professionals to receive consistent and frequent re-training in measuring blood pressure (BP). While measuring BP is a common procedure, and BP guidelines recommend that health care providers receive periodic re-training, a recent AMA and AHA commissioned survey indicates that many medical professionals may not receive additional training or regular re-assessment of their BP measurement skills.

Of the more than 2,000 health care professionals surveyed, half of the physicians and physician assistants who responded said they had not received BP measurement re-training after their initial training in professional school. A third of nurse respondents and a quarter of medical assistants also said they had not received re-training. However, more than half of those surveyed said some form of standardized blood pressure measurement refresher should be required.

“Hypertension is a leading risk factor for heart attacks, strokes, and preventable death in the U.S. Inaccurate blood pressure readings can lead to diagnosis errors, which means getting an accurate reading is vital to treating the condition,” said AMA President Patrice A. Harris, M.D., M.A. “To support physicians and care teams, we will continue working with health care organizations on implementing quality improvement efforts that enhance the standard of care and safety for the patients they serve.” 

To bridge the training gap, AMA and AHA developed a new e-learning module to provide health care professionals guideline-recommended training on proper BP measurement. Achieving Accuracy: BP Measurement, developed as part of the AMA and AHA’s Target: BP™ initiative, is the first step in the organizations’ joint efforts to ensure every health care professional is trained to accurately and consistently measure BP. The module is available on the AHA’s e-Learning platform and TargetBP.org.

“Good blood-pressure control is foundational for preventing heart disease and strokes. An accurate blood pressure measurement is important to help clinicians gauge treatment decisions, and for patients to have confidence in their efforts to manage their health,” said AHA President Robert Harrington, M.D. “That’s why both the AMA and AHA strongly support refresher training for health care professionals as a critical component to providing the highest quality of care and patient safety.”

To ensure the new module meets the needs of health care professionals who regularly take their patient’s BP measurements, the AMA and AHA teamed with three leading health care organizations – Advocate Aurora Health (Illinois), University of Pennsylvania, and The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), as well as one of the nation’s largest retail clinics, MinuteClinic, to test its effectiveness. Each organization is currently looking at ways to implement a phased approach to conducting BP measurement skills assessments and re-training all members of their care team.

“We found that the module is extremely useful for providers across all levels of training, from medical assistants through attending physicians. We have no doubt that this will be a practice-changing endeavor,” said Debbie Cohen, M.D., Professor of Medicine and Director of Clinical Hypertension at the University of Pennsylvania. “We have already started to develop a hypertension disease team that is benefiting from this experience, with plans to integrate the training module into routine clinical practice,” added Jordana Cohen, M.D., Assistant Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology in the Renal-Electrolyte and Hypertension Division and Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of Pennsylvania.

“At MinuteClinic, we have a long-standing commitment to advancing heart health and we know that early identification of patients with high blood pressure is essential in managing hypertension and preventing future complications,” said David Fairchild, M.D., Chief Medical Officer, MinuteClinic. “This research underscores the importance of ensuring that providers on the front lines have easy access to opportunities for standardized blood pressure measurement training and re-training in order to deliver high quality health care.”

Accurately measuring BP is a pillar of the AMA’s MAP BP Program, which stands for Measure Accurately, Act Rapidly and Partner with Patients. The MAP BP Program is core to the AMA and AHA’s joint national Target: BP™ initiative, which launched in the fall of 2016. To date, more than 1,600 physician practices and health systems nationwide have joined Target: BP, sharing a common goal to reduce the number of adult patients with uncontrolled BP and improve health outcomes associated with heart disease. More information about Target: BP, including a link to access the new BP measurement e-learning module, can be found at TargetBP.org.

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The American Medical Association is the physicians’ powerful ally in patient care. As the only medical association that convenes 190+ state and specialty medical societies and other critical stakeholders, the AMA represents physicians with a unified voice to all key players in health care.  The AMA leverages its strength by removing the obstacles that interfere with patient care, leading the charge to prevent chronic disease and confront public health crises and, driving the future of medicine to tackle the biggest challenges in health care.