Electronic Clinical Measures Point to EHRs Potential to Monitor Blood Pressure Control

About 1 of 3 U.S. adults—67 million people—have high blood pressure, also called hypertension. High blood pressure increases the risk for a variety of diseases, including stroke, coronary artery disease, peripheral vascular disease, heart and kidney failure, and atrial fibrillation. High blood pressure is also called the “silent killer” because it often has no warning signs or symptoms, and many people do not know they have it.

The Department of Health and Human Services, through its national Million Hearts® initiative, has set a goal to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes by 2017. Million Hearts® is working with providers to reach clinical targets that could improve population health. For example, health care providers are encouraged to have 70 percent or more of their patients with hypertension control their blood pressure, which could be done by self-monitoring.

During National High Blood Pressure Education Month (May 2015), HHS’ Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are emphasizing the important impact that electronic health records (EHRs) are having through the ability for patients and providers to interchangeably share blood pressure data.

New research about the Million Hearts® electronic clinical quality measures (eCQMs) included in the Medicare EHR Incentive Programs was published today in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) in the article “Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report: Using Meaningful Use Clinical Quality Measures for Million Hearts Surveillance.”  The report shows that, for the first time, data reported as part of the incentive programs, or meaningful use, could improve the timeliness and possibly completeness of data used to track issues of public health concern.

Health IT is on the Quality Team

With a primary focus on the reporting of the Million Hearts® hypertension measures, the research published today shows that:

  • Among providers that started in 2011, the very first year of CMS’ EHR Incentive Program, the average proportion of patients with hypertension in control remained unchanged at 62-63 percent over 3 years.
  • About one-third (36 percent) of reporting providers met the Million Hearts® clinical target of 70 percent or more of their patients with hypertension under control.

The findings show that an EHR is a tool that should make providing better health care easier, but it cannot do so in isolation. Health IT is on the quality team, which means that patient-centered, team-based approaches to care, coupled with the use of certified health IT, can move the health system towards meeting the very important Million Hearts® targets. These strategies should also help clinicians guide patients to achieve safe blood pressures and avoid preventable death and disability.

Quality Reporting is a Powerful Tool for Population Health Surveillance

With the Health IT Dashboard: Office-based Physician Health IT Adoption, discrete blood pressure data, documented and captured electronically, are now available to help us understand hypertension trends and identify steps to accelerate progress. The first three years of the meaningful use program yielded electronic clinical quality …read more

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