Home-grown EHR helps health center control hypertension

Electronic health records can help get hypertension under control, even among lower income and uninsured populations, according to a new article in MedPage Today.

The Family Health Centers of San Diego, a Federally Qualified Health Center, is attributing its success rate in reducing blood pressure rates to its use of EHRs, which provides dashboards so that providers can better track patients' hypertension rates and help the center create metric goals for its providers. Bonuses were awarded if at least 65 percent of patients had their blood pressure under control.

The EHR system--which is home grown--also flags which patients are most at risk of developing strokes or other conditions due to their hypertension; this enables the center to create customized letters that help prompt patients to schedule appointments for treatment.

Family Health Centers also uses non-EHR tactics to tackle hypertension, such as teams to educate patients.

The hypertension control rate improved from 63.9 percent in 2011-12 to 70.3 percent in 2012-14. The center is one of 30 practices nationwide dubbed a "hypertension control champion" by the federal government's "Million Hearts" initiative.  

Family Health Centers doesn't have it easy; one-third of its patients are uninsured, and many are undocumented immigrants. To that end, the Center has a 30 to 40 percent "no-show" rate and a high turnover in patient contact information.

"Our typical patient is earning little money, is balancing that with trying to feed their family or pay the rent ... they're balancing whether they can pay for their medicines and see the doctor versus take care of these other things," Charles Bart Smoot, M.D., who spearheaded the center's effort, tells MedPage.  

EHRs have been shown to reduce unnecessary tests and improve care. Chronic disease is the leading cause of death in the United States; much of which is preventable with proper treatment.

To learn more:
- read the article