In response to a trend reported by the American Heart Association stating there was a 13% increase in hypertension (high blood pressure) related deaths nationally in 2015, Alameda Health System (AHS) decided to implement some changes to help patients get their blood pressure under control with the goal of saving lives.

“In the last six months, our control rate has improved by almost 10%. That number might seem small but when you consider how many patients we are talking about, that is a substantial impact,” said Jenny Cohen M.D., M.P.H., Quality Medical Director for the Adult Medicine Clinic at AHS-Highland Hospital. “Hypertension contributes to heart failure, heart attacks and strokes, and we know that our patients suffer disproportionally bad outcomes from those conditions, which is why it was important for us to figure out a way to improve our blood pressure control by working with our patients, medical assistants, nurses and clinicians.”

The AHS Public Hospital Redesign and Incentives in Medi-Cal (PRIME) team modified their approach to how they were checking patients’ blood pressure to ensure they were getting accurate readings. Without correct information the proper course of treatment and control could not be prescribed.

This effort and other PRIME initiatives is one of the many ways AHS is improving care for the future by addressing disparities and improving quality outcomes for patients.

Dr. Cohen takes patient Mr. Evans blood pressure for the second time prior to him leaving.

“We found that patients were exhibiting elevated levels for various reasons; some were running late and rushing to their appointments causing elevated readings in blood pressure. With this in mind, we decided to take a patient’s blood pressure at the beginning of the appointment and before their departure to have a more accurate reading,” said Neha Gupta, M.D., Medical Director of the AHS PRIME team.

If after two readings the patient’s pressure is still high, proper medication is then given to the patient with the intent of reducing the pressure to a goal level. In order to make sure the medicine is working and is safe, patients come back in two weeks for a follow-up appointment with a nurse for another blood pressure check. By taking accurate blood pressure measurements and keeping a close eye on patients, the team at Highland hopes to improve their patients’ blood pressure and decrease their patients’ risks of heart attacks and strokes.

The strides being made at AHS in this area are timely considering the Million Hearts Initiative, led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) just released a report stating that heart attacks, strokes and similar conditions caused 2.2 million hospitalizations and 415,000 deaths in 2016. The CDC says these shocking numbers are due, in part, by missed opportunities to treat the controllable causes of cardiovascular disease.