Springer Nature

Blood pressure measurements for diagnosing hypertension in primary care: room for improvement

Posted on 2024-01-03 - 05:01
Abstract Background In the adult population, about 50% have hypertension, a risk factor for cardiovascular disease and subsequent premature death. Little is known about the quality of the methods used to diagnose hypertension in primary care. Objectives The objective was to assess the frequency of use of recognized methods to establish a diagnosis of hypertension, and specifically for OBPM, whether three distinct measurements were taken, and how correctly the blood pressure levels were interpreted. Methods A retrospective population-based cohort study using electronic medical records of patients aged between 40 and 70 years, who visited their general practitioner (GP) with a new-onset of hypertension in the years 2012, 2016, 2019, and 2020. A visual chart review of the electronic medical records was used to assess the methods employed to diagnose hypertension in a random sample of 500 patients. The blood pressure measurement method was considered complete if three or more valid office blood pressure measurements (OBPM) were performed, or home-based blood pressure measurements (HBPM), the office- based 30-minute method (OBP30), or 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure measurements (24 H-ABPM) were used. Results In all study years, OBPM was the most frequently used method to diagnose new-onset hypertension in patients. The OBP-30 method was used in 0.4% (2012), 4.2% (2016), 10.6% (2019), and 9.8% (2020) of patients respectively, 24 H-ABPM in 16.0%, 22.2%, 17.2%, and 19.0% of patients and HBPM measurements in 5.4%, 8.4%, 7.6%, and 7.8% of patients, respectively. A diagnosis of hypertension based on only one or two office measurements occurred in 85.2% (2012), 87.9% (2016), 94.4% (2019), and 96.8% (2020) of all patients with OBPM. In cases of incomplete measurement and incorrect interpretation, medication was still started in 64% of cases in 2012, 56% (2016), 60% (2019), and 73% (2020). Conclusion OBPM is still the most often used method to diagnose hypertension in primary care. The diagnosis was often incomplete or misinterpreted using incorrect cut-off levels. A small improvement occurred between 2012 and 2016 but no further progress was seen in 2019 or 2020. If hypertension is inappropriately diagnosed, it may result in under treatment or in prolonged, unnecessary treatment of patients. There is room for improvement in the general practice setting.


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