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Open Access Research article

Quality of care for hypertension in the United States

Steven M Asch12*, Elizabeth A McGlynn2, Liisa Hiatt2, John Adams2, Jennifer Hicks2, Alison DeCristofaro2, Roland Chen3, Pablo LaPuerta3 and Eve A Kerr4

Author Affiliations

1 West LA VA, Mail Code 111G, 11301 Wilshire Bl, Los Angeles, CA 90073, USA

2 RAND Health, 1776 Main Street, Santa Monica, CA 90407, USA

3 Global Epidemiology and Outcomes Research, Pharmaceutical Research Institute, Bristol-Myers Squibb Company, PO Box 4000, Princeton, NJ 08543-4000, USA

4 VA Center for Practice Management and Outcomes Research and the Department of Medicine, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, (11H), 2215 Fuller Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48105, USA

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BMC Cardiovascular Disorders 2005, 5:1  doi:10.1186/1471-2261-5-1

Published: 7 January 2005



Despite heavy recent emphasis on blood pressure (BP) control, many patients fail to meet widely accepted goals. While access and adherence to therapy certainly play a role, another potential explanation is poor quality of essential care processes (QC). Yet little is known about the relationship between QC and BP control.


We assessed QC in 12 U.S. communities by reviewing the medical records of a randomly selected group of patients for the two years preceding our study. We included patients with either a diagnosis of hypertension or two visits with BPs of ≥140/90 in their medical records. We used 28 process indicators based on explicit evidence to assess QC. The indicators covered a broad spectrum of care and were developed through a modified Delphi method. We considered patients who received all indicated care to have optimal QC. We defined control of hypertension as BP < 140/90 in the most recent reading.


Of 1,953 hypertensive patients, only 57% received optimal care and 42% had controlled hypertension. Patients who had received optimal care were more likely to have their BP under control at the end of the study (45% vs. 35%, p = .0006). Patients were more likely to receive optimal care if they were over age 50 (76% vs. 63%, p < .0001), had diabetes (77% vs. 71%, p = .0038), coronary artery disease (87% vs. 69%, p < .0001), or hyperlipidemia (80% vs. 68%, p < .0001), and did not smoke (73% vs. 66%, p = .0005).


Higher QC for hypertensive patients is associated with better BP control. Younger patients without cardiac risk factors are at greatest risk for poor care. Quality measurement systems like the one presented in this study can guide future quality improvement efforts.