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For Immediate Release: September 17, 2012
Contact:Division of News & Electronic Media, Office of Communication
(404) 639-3286

Million Hearts Recognizes Health Systems' Success in Helping Patients Control High Blood Pressure

Control rates higher than 80 percent possible for large urban and small rural practices

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Million Hearts Initiative today recognized two practices for success in helping patients control their high blood pressure.

Kaiser Permanente Colorado, Denver, and Ellsworth Medical Clinic, Ellsworth, Wis., were named Million Hearts High Blood Pressure Control Champions for achieving blood pressure control rates of greater than 80 percent among their patients with high blood pressure.  Since January 2008, Kaiser Permanente Colorado’s focus on managing hypertension has improved the blood pressure control rate of its patients from 61 percent to 82.6 percent. Between 2007 and 2011 the Ellsworth Medical Clinic in western Wisconsin improved blood pressure control among patients with cardiovascular disease from 68 percent to 97 percent. As of August 2012, the practice had achieved a 90 percent control rate for all patients with hypertension.

Both systems credit the improvement to using electronic health records to track and monitor patients, sending email and phone reminders to increase medication adherence and encourage healthy lifestyle changes, and working closely with staff to prioritize high blood pressure control.  

“These two practices have shown that by making high blood pressure a priority every day with every patient, control can be achieved by both large and small providers—and everyone in between,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, “We are encouraged by the efforts of Kaiser Permanente Colorado and Ellsworth Medical Clinic to lower high blood pressure and be an example for other healthcare providers to follow. Controlling blood pressure better could save more lives than any other change in health care.”

The recognition follows the release earlier this month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of data on uncontrolled high blood pressure. Nearly 1 in 3 American adults (67 million) has high blood pressure, and more than half (36 million) don’t have it under control, according to the CDC’s Vital Signs report. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, the first and fourth leading causes of death in the United States, leading to nearly 1,000 deaths a day. High blood pressure—blood pressure greater than or equal to 140/90 mm Hg—is responsible for direct health care costs of almost $131 billion each year.

Health care systems and professionals have important roles to play in helping patients reduce blood pressure and prevent heart attacks and strokes, according to CDC Director Thomas Frieden, M.D., M.P.H.  

“Health care systems can improve care by establishing targets for their staff to achieve and then recognizing and rewarding them for high performance,” Frieden said. “And among all the things that doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and other health care professionals can do, improving control of blood pressure is at the very top in terms of the number of lives that can be saved.”

Kaiser Permanente Colorado is a medical group, health plan, and care delivery system that serves more than 535,000 members in the Denver/Boulder/southern Colorado area through a system of 24 medical offices. Ellsworth Medical Clinic serves about 5,500 patients in a rural town of about 1,500 people, 50 miles from Minneapolis./p>

“We applaud these first two High Blood Pressure Control Champions for making sustainable changes that improved high blood pressure control rates for their entire patient population,” said Janet Wright, M.D., a board-certified cardiologist and executive director of Million Hearts. “We will expand this recognition next year and beyond. We know that many other practices have made substantial progress in blood pressure control and we want to recognize their performance and share their strategies too.”

In 2013, Million Hearts will sponsor a competitive challenge to identify exemplary practices, providers, and plans in hypertension control. Entrants will provide information about their practice, share their verifiable high blood pressure control data, and describe how use of health information technology such as electronic health records, incentives for providers and patients, team based care, attention to medication use and persistence, and community involvement contributed to success.

Million Hearts is a joint initiative of CDC and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.  Controlling high blood pressure is a key component of the initiative to prevent a million heart attacks and strokes by 2017.  For more information about the initiative and links to tools for health care professionals and consumers, visit: http://millionhearts.hhs.gov.

For more information about the effective hypertension control efforts of these champions and others: http://www.cdc.gov/stltpublichealth/townhall/2012/09/vitalsigns.html and http://www.innovations.ahrq.gov/content.aspx?id=3222.

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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

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