Objectives: To determine if dissemination of the American College of Emergency Physicians clinical policy on hypertension to emergency physicians would lead to improvements in blood pressure reassessment and referral of emergency department (ED) patients with elevated blood pressure.
Methods: Two academic centers implemented a pre-post intervention design, with independent samples at pre and post phases. ED staff were blinded to the investigation. A total of 377 medical records were reviewed before policy dissemination and 402 were reviewed after policy dissemination. Medical records were eligible for review if the patient was at least 18 years of age, was not pregnant, was discharged from the ED, and had a triage systolic blood pressure > or = 140 mm Hg or diastolic blood pressure > or = 90 mm Hg. Patient records with a chief complaint of chest pain, shortness of breath, or neurologic complaints were excluded. Demographics, blood pressures, and evidence of discharge referral were abstracted from the medical record. The policy was disseminated after the initial medical record review. Post-policy dissemination medical record review was conducted within two weeks.
Results: A total of 779 medical records were reviewed. The mean age of patients was 45 years, 55% were male, and 46% were white, 13% Hispanic, 35% African American, and 6% other. No differences in reassessment or referral rates were found between study phases. Blood pressure reassessments were low during both phases: 33% (pre) and 37% (post). Referral rates of patients with elevated blood pressure were very low: 13% (pre) and 7% (post).
Conclusions: Knowledge of guidelines did not translate into changes in physician practice. Additional systems-based approaches are necessary to effectively translate guidelines into clinical practice.