Conference Coverage

New hypertension performance measures boost 130/80 mm Hg target



– The American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology took a big step toward facilitating widespread U.S. application of the hypertension management guideline that the societies issued in 2017 by releasing a set of performance and quality measures for adults with high blood pressure based on the 2017 guideline.

Dr. Donald E. Casey Jr., principal and founder, IPO 4 Health, Chicago Mitchel L. Zoler/MDedge News

Dr. Donald E. Casey Jr.

This guideline notably set a treatment target for patients diagnosed with hypertension of less than 130/80 mg/dL, and also lowered the threshold for diagnosing stage 1 hypertension to a blood pressure at or above 130/80 mm Hg, adding in a stroke about 31 million adults with hypertension to the U.S. total.

Having performance and quality measures based on the guideline is “critical, because how else would you know whether you’re having an effect on accurately diagnosing and properly controlling hypertension?” said Donald E. Casey Jr., MD, chair of the performance measures writing committee. The next step is field testing of the measures “to show they are reliable and effective,” as well as other steps to encourage widespread U.S. uptake of the performance and quality measures and the specifics of the 2017 guideline, Dr. Casey said during a presentation of the revised measures at the American Heart Association scientific sessions.

He especially highlighted the important role of Target: BP, an education, recognition, and quality improvement program run by the AHA and American Medical Association, as a tool that medical practices, health systems, and even payers and employers can use to begin to apply the new performance and quality measures (J Am Coll Cardiol. 2019 Nov 26;74[21]:2661-706) and better align with the recommendations of the 2017 high blood pressure guideline (J Am Coll Cardiol. 2018 May;71[19]:e127-248).

“We’re trying now to promote Target: BP; it’s something you can take off the shelf and get going if it’s embedded in a real-life delivery model. I think Target: BP is the secret sauce. It will be the way we’ll convince people to adopt this,” said Dr. Casey, principal and founder of IPO 4 Health, a Chicago-based health care consulting firm.

He also advised practices and health systems not to feel compelled to introduce all of the specific performance and quality measures at once. “We don’t believe everyone has the resources to do all of it at once; the point is to move toward this system of care. We understand that people don’t have the resources to get it all done” immediately, Dr. Casey said in an interview.

Dr. Daniel W. Weiswasser, director of quality and clinical informatics, Trinity Health of New England, Springfield, Mass. Mitchel L. Zoler/MDedge News

Dr. Daniel W. Weiswasser

A report during another session at the meeting documented the potential impact that Target: BP can have on blood pressure control within a health system. The Trinity Health of New England medical group based in Springfield, Mass., a system with about 140,000 patients – including 20,000 adults diagnosed with hypertension – and served by 230 health care providers in 13 offices in western Massachusetts, began using Target: BP’s MAP improvement program in its practices in November 2018. (MAP stands for measure accurately, act rapidly, and partner with patients.) Just before the MAP program began, 72% of patients diagnosed with hypertension in the medical group were at their goal blood pressure. Less than a year later, in September 2019, the hypertension control rate had jumped to 84%, a 12 percentage point improvement in control in practices that already had been doing a relatively good job, said Daniel W. Weiswasser, MD, director of quality and clinical informatics at Trinity Health of New England. Based on this success, Trinity Health plans to next involve the remaining regions of Trinity Health of New England in Target: BP, followed by the other regions of Trinity’s national organization, which operates in 21 states with nearly 4,000 staff physicians and about half a million patients diagnosed with hypertension, Dr. Weiswasser said.

Dr. Brent M. Egan, vice president for cardiovascular disease prevention, American Medical Association, Greenville, S.C. Mitchel L. Zoler/MDedge News

Dr. Brent M. Egan

“If clinicians do the three steps of the MAP then we will see substantial drops in blood pressures. It will occur,” declared Brent M. Egan, MD, vice president for cardiovascular disease prevention of the AMA in Greenville, S.C.

The new report includes six performance measures based on the strongest guideline recommendations and designed to document adherence levels for the purposes of public reporting and pay-for-performance programs. It also includes 16 quality measures designed for local quality review purposes, with 6 process quality measures and 10 structural quality measures. The report spells out that the authors designed the performance measures for use by major national organizations such as the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA), while the quality measures are designed to support quality improvement efforts in any care-delivery setting.

The authors said that the writing committee is sensitive to the fact that the 2019 performance measures for controlling high blood pressure developed by the NCQA for the Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set and currently in use in 2019 by CMS also does not incorporate the 2017 Hypertension Clinical Practice Guidelines classification scheme. “It is well understood that these measures are already in widespread use, especially for quality-related payment programs promulgated by CMS, such as the Medicare Advantage ‘Stars’ ratings, the Medicare Shared Savings Program, and the Physician Quality Payment Program, as well as many other programs promoted by commercial health insurers. In particular, the widespread use of the 2017 Hypertension Clinical Practice Guidelines classification scheme will also help to guide decision making about when to prescribe antihypertensive medications in accordance with its current recommendations for the ACC/AHA “stages” of stage 1 and stage 2 hypertension and elevated blood pressure,” they added.

The report also says that “the writing committee was sensitive to the fact that there is currently not complete consensus among other guidelines from the American College of Physicians and the American Academy of Family Physicians, and also the European Society of Cardiology and the European Society of Hypertension. Nonetheless, despite this ongoing debate, the writing committee felt strongly that it is now time to move the U.S. health care system ahead to reflect these differing points of view and expects that widespread use of this new measure set will help to achieve this goal.” The new report revises hypertension performance measures developed by the ACC and AHA in 2011 (J Am Coll Cardiol. 2011 Jul 12;58[3]: 316-36).

In short, the performance and quality measures give all the diverse components of the U.S. health care delivery system a road map for implementing the 2017 High Blood Pressure Guideline in a format that depends on those components electing to adopt and adhere to the 2017 guideline. (Although one of the new performance measures, 1a, harmonizes with an existing and widely applied performance measure.)

Dr. William C. Cushman, professor of preventive medicine, University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Memphis

Dr. William C. Cushman

“Who is the audience for this, and how will they respond? These performance measures need to be appropriated” by health systems and by performance-assessment groups. “I hope the NCQA will adopt it,” said William C. Cushman, MD, professor of preventive medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis, and chief of preventive medicine at the Memphis Veterans Affairs Medical Center. “There are some negatives to performance measures, but on balance they have done good things and led to better care.” Dr. Cushman also approved of several specific performance and quality measures included in the report. “Most of what they emphasized is good,” particularly the importance of accurate pressure measurement, he said in an interview.

“Process drives outcomes” in hypertension management, and the new performance and quality measures “have some very good process metrics,” commented Dr. Egan. “I’d encourage health systems to select two or three measures that are key to what they do and make sense in their setting rather than try to implement it all at once,” he advised, echoing what Dr. Casey had suggested. “It’s ideal to do everything, but we know that if you give physicians a long list of performance measures they just get overwhelmed. The nice thing about hypertension is that we know that process drives outcomes. In the past, we’ve had some process metrics that did not drive outcomes. Getting these processes implemented will lead to better patient outcomes and save a ton of money.”

Dr. Gregory Wozniak, director, outcomes analytics, American Medical Association, Chicago Mitchel L. Zoler/MDedge News

Dr. Gregory Wozniak

“We have introduced the 2017 guideline recommendations throughout Target: BP, but like any quality improvement program there is a question of how does it spread,” said Gregory Wozniak, PhD, director of outcomes analytics for the AMA in Chicago. “Our goal for Target: BP is to be impacting 20 million patients by 2021.”

Dr. Casey, Dr. Weiswasser, and Dr. Wozniak had no disclosures. Dr. Cushman has received honoraria as a speaker from Arbor and Sanofi-Aventis, and travel and research support from Eli Lilly. Dr. Egan has been a consultant to and speaker on behalf of Merck and a speaker for Emcure.

SOURCE: Casey DE et al. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2019 Nov 26;74[21]: 2661-706.

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