Background: Guidelines for care of hypertensive patients have proliferated recently, yet quality assessment remains difficult in the absence of well-defined measurement systems. Existing systems have not always linked process measures to blood pressure outcomes.
Methods: A quality measurement system was developed and tested on hypertensive women in a West Coast health plan. An expert panel selected clinically detailed, evidence-explicit indicators using a modified Delphi method. Thirteen indicators (1 screening, 5 diagnostic, 5 treatment, and 2 follow-up indicators) were selected by this process. Trained nurses used a laptop-based tool to abstract data from medical records for the most recent 2 years of care.
Results: Of 15 004 eligible patients with hypertensive and other chronic disease codes, 613 patients were sampled, all eligible for the screening indicator. Of these, 234 women with an average blood pressure of 140/90 mm Hg or more, or a documented diagnosis of hypertension, were studied for the remaining indicators. The average woman received 64% of the recommended care. Most patients did not receive adequate initial history, physical examination, or laboratory tests. Only 37% of hypertensive women with persistent elevations to more than 160/90 mm Hg had changes in therapy or lifestyle recommended. The average adherence proportion to all indicators was lower in patients with uncontrolled blood pressure (>140/90 mm Hg) than in those with controlled blood pressure (54% vs 73%; P<.001).
Conclusions: Quality of hypertensive care falls short of indicators based on randomized controlled trials and national guidelines. Poor performance in essential care processes is associated with poor blood pressure control.