Trends in time to confirmation and recognition of new-onset hypertension, 2002-2006
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Achieving full benefits of blood pressure control in populations requires prompt recognition of previously undetected hypertension. In 2003, the Seventh Report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure provided definitions of hypertension and recommended that single elevated readings be confirmed within 1 to 2 months. We sought to determine whether the time required to confirm and recognize (ie, diagnose and/or treat) new-onset hypertension decreased from 2002 to 2006 for adult members of 2 large integrated healthcare delivery systems, Kaiser Permanente Northern California and Colorado. Using electronically stored office blood pressure readings, physician diagnoses, and pharmacy prescriptions, we identified 200 587 patients with new-onset hypertension (2002-2006) marked by 2 consecutive elevated blood pressure readings in previously undiagnosed, untreated members. Mean confirmation intervals (time from the first to second consecutive elevated reading) declined steadily from 103 to 89 days during this period. For persons recognized within 12 months after confirmation, the mean interval to recognition declined from 78 to 61 days. However, only 33% of individuals were recognized within 12 months. One third were never recognized during observed follow-up. For these patients, most subsequent blood pressure recordings were not elevated. Higher initial blood pressure levels, history of previous cardiovascular disease, and older age were associated with shorter times to recognition. Times to confirmation and recognition of new-onset hypertension have become shorter in recent years, especially for patients with higher cardiovascular disease risk. Variability in office-based blood pressure readings suggests that further improvements in recognition and treatment may be achieved with more specific automated approaches to identifying hypertension.
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