The majority of healthcare providers may not be following evidence-based practices when screening and diagnosing hypertension, survey results have revealed. 

In a surprise to researchers, few of the 282 professionals surveyed across 10 medical centers reported using out-of-office blood pressure monitoring when making a new diagnosis of high blood pressure. The American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology advise that clinicians use techniques such as ambulatory monitoring, in which a patient wears a cuff that automatically checks blood pressure every 30 minutes during the day and every 60 minutes at night, said investigators from the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute and the University of Washington.

Survey responses instead showed that:

  • Approximately 79% of healthcare providers believe that blood pressure measured manually with a stethoscope is a “very” or “highly accurate” way to assess blood pressure.
  • More than 96% of clinicians always or almost always relied on in-clinic blood pressure measurements when making a new diagnosis of hypertension.

Despite these findings, most physicians also agreed that out-of-office monitoring was an effective way to screen for hypertension, and fully 60% responded that they would prefer to use ambulatory blood pressure monitoring if available. 

In related research, the study team also found that using an automated, office blood pressure monitor may not be an accurate way to rule in or rule out a new diagnosis of hypertension. 

“When there is a question of whether blood pressure is high or normal, getting more blood pressure measurements, either by at-home testing or by getting a 24-hour ambulatory monitoring test, is likely to lead to better decision-making,” concluded Beverly Green, M.D., M.P.H., lead author of the studies. 

Meanwhile, after almost 15 years of improvement, awareness among Americans about high blood pressure, how to control it and how best to treat it is on the decline, McKnight’s recently reported.