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Team Approach Improves Blood Pressure Control, Task Force Finds

By CQ Staff

May 15, 2012 -- One key to better blood pressure control is to have a team of health professionals follow a patient's care, something that should be incorporated into the health delivery system, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) task force recently said.

The Task Force on Community Preventive Services made the recommendation, CDC officials said, after reviewing 77 studies of team-based care. The research "showed that patients' control of blood pressure improved when their care was provided by a team of health professionals—a primary care provider supported by a pharmacist, nurse, dietitian, social worker, or community health worker—rather than by a single physician,'' CDC officials said in a written statement.

In areas where this model was in place, team members supplemented the activities of the primary care provider by supporting and sharing in tasks such as medication management, patient follow-up and helping people adhere to their blood pressure control plans—including monitoring blood pressure routinely, taking medications as prescribed, reducing sodium in the diet and increasing physical activity.

The studies showed that blood pressure was controlled the best when health professionals in the team, other than the primary care provider, had the ability to change a patient's medication independently as opposed to only monitoring someone's adherence to a prescription.

"Adoption of this model throughout the United States would improve blood pressure control for the 68 million adult Americans who have high blood pressure and reduce their risk of heart attack, stroke, and other health problems," CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden said in a statement. "This analysis shows that when primary care physicians and other health care professionals with different expertise and approaches work together to support their patients, they can find the right formula for getting blood pressure under control."

High blood pressure was listed as a primary or contributing cause of death for approximately 336,000 Americans in 2007, according to the CDC, which estimated that if all patients with high blood pressure were treated as outlined in current clinical guidelines, 46,000 deaths might be averted each year. Total annual costs associated with hypertension are $156 billion, including medical costs of $131 billion and lost productivity costs of $25 billion.

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