September 16, 2012

Colorado Region hailed as Hypertension Control Champion

DENVER — Today, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius recognized Kaiser Permanente’s Colorado Region as a 2012 Hypertension Control Champion by Million Hearts™, a national public-private initiative of the Department of Health and Human Services. Kaiser Permanente Colorado is one of just 2 health care providers in the country to be recognized as a 2012 Hypertension Control Champion. Ellsworth (Wis.) Medical Clinic was the other.

“The recognition of Kaiser Permanente Colorado’s hypertension control work reflects our dedication nationally, across all our regions, in engaging patients proactively and focusing on their total health,” said Jack Cochran, MD, executive director of The Permanente Federation, Kaiser Permanente. “Supported by information technology, our physicians and their teams work together to help patients get and stay healthy.”

What does it mean to be a Hypertension Control Champion? The designation signifies Kaiser Permanente Colorado as having had remarkable success controlling hypertension across its entire patient population, supported by verifiable data documenting the improvement. Since 2008, Kaiser Permanente Colorado’s focus on managing hypertension has resulted in an improvement from an initial member control rate of 61 percent to its current control rate of 82.6 percent. Nationally, hypertension control rates hover around 50 percent.

“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 Secretary Sebelius, during a ceremony at Kaiser Permanente’s East Denver Medical Office Building. “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 health care providers to follow. Controlling blood pressure better could save more lives than any other change in health care.”

“It’s an honor to be recognized for this achievement by Secretary Sebelius and Million Hearts™,” said Donna Lynne, DrPH, president of Kaiser Permanente Colorado. “This award shines the spotlight on Kaiser Permanente’s integrated care delivery system as a model for controlling hypertension and improving health outcomes.”

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is defined as a blood pressure greater than or equal to 140/90 mm - Hg, and it significantly increases the risk of heart disease or stroke. According to the CDC, nearly one in three American adults (67 million) has high blood pressure, and more than half (36 million) don’t have it under control. Additionally, high blood pressure contributes to nearly 1,000 deaths per day and accounts for nearly $131 billion in direct health care costs a year.

It should not be surprising that Kaiser Permanente is a national leader in the field of hypertension control. Last year, when the Department of Health and Human Services launched the Million Hearts Initiative, it asked Kaiser Permanente to become a partner and to share examples of the many programs and activities that  the organization has across its regions that align with their aims. Kaiser Permanente in 2003 developed the ALL/PHASE protocol, which utilizes low-cost and generic medications (such as aspirin, Lisinopril, and lipid-lowering medication) and clinical interventions to reduce heart attacks in our regions. The patients Kaiser Permanente initially included in its ALL/PHASE program were those with heart disease, as well as patients over the age of 55 who had diabetes. These patients had 60 percent fewer heart attacks and strokes.

Through the Million Hearts Initiative, the goal of which is to prevent one million heart attacks and strokes by 2017, Kaiser Permanente now has the opportunity to expand its efforts.

Another Kaiser Permanente initiative aimed at managing the effects of heart disease and other chronic diseases is the Every Body Walk! campaign. At, there are videos and other materials that aim to educate adults about the health benefits of walking.

There are 5 central components of Kaiser Permanente’s hypertension control strategy:

  • Registries: Through data housed within the Kaiser Permanente HealthConnect® electronic medical record, registries are created to identify members with hypertension.
  • Actionable lists: Kaiser Permanente staff then draft lists to help identify which members did not have their blood pressure under control.
  • Patient outreach: In order to reach those newly identified members, Kaiser Permanente nurses and other care team representatives work collaboratively to contact members and encourage them to come into local medical offices for blood pressure checks at least once a year.
  • Managing blood pressure in the office: Kaiser Permanente primary care teams and clinical pharmacy staff develop long-term medication management programs for members with hypertension.
  • Eliminating barriers: Members with hypertension are able to receive free blood pressure checks on a walk-in or appointment basis.