Taking extra steps to help patients manage blood pressure

For the past year, Mile Bluff’s clinics have taken part in a Health Resources and Service Administration grant opportunity with the Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative. The focus of the project was to help improve hypertension. The goal was to increase the percentage of patients ages 18 to 85 who have their blood pressure (BP) below 140/90.

As a part of the initiative, staff members learned new ways to ensure getting accurate BP readings - including rechecking BP throughout an appointment if initial results are high. Staff members were also trained in taking BP reading according to new guidelines, as listed below.

Tips for an accurate BP reading:

  • Do not talk - Talking adds 10-15 mm Hg.
  • Put cuff on bare arm - Clothing adds 10-40 mm Hg.
  • Support arm at heart level - Unsupported arm adds 10 mm Hg.
  • Empty bladder before test - Full bladder adds 10-15 mm Hg.
  • Support back and feet - Unsupported back and feet each adds 5-10 mm Hg.
  • Do not cross legs - Crossed legs add 2-8 mm Hg.

Mile Bluff also purchased electronic BP machines to ensure consistent and accurate reading.

In addition to following new guidelines and investing in equipment, a workflow was created for patients 18 and older. This is a tool that helps guide staff as to when patients need to follow up to get their BP rechecked.

Following these new measures for the past year has provided great results in BP management at Mile Bluff. Prior to the project, staff members were retaking BPs 14 percent of the time. About a year later, that has increased to 63 percent.

Even if efforts only prevented one patient from being inaccurately diagnosed with hypertension due to inaccurate blood pressure readings, the efforts would be worth it. Overall, the initiative has proven to be successful.

The next step will be to focus on educating patients on home BP monitoring. This will help to ensure that patients are using approved monitors, performing checks accurately, and recording results for their healthcare provider to review.

If you have any questions about your blood pressure, please be sure to ask your provider.

For more information about blood pressure management, visit The American Heart Association at www.heart.org.