Re-Training Providers to Achieve Proper Blood Pressure Measurement

A photo of a woman’s hand on a blood pressure cuff.

Getting your blood pressure checked is a familiar experience at the doctor’s office, but recent research suggests that it may not always be accurate.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), nearly half of all U.S. adults have high blood pressure, which is a leading risk factor for heart attacks, strokes, and preventable death.  Accurate measurement of a patient’s blood pressure is vital to providing accurate diagnoses and quality care.

Given the importance of accurate blood pressure readings, clinical guidelines recommend that health care providers be periodically re-trained on proper BP measurement; however, recent market research conducted by the American Medical Association (AMA) and the AHA indicated this may not always be the case.

Based on this research, the AMA and AHA partnered with MinuteClinic, along with a leading health care organization and leading academic medical centers, to test a new e-learning module. The module, called Achieving Accuracy: BP Measurement, was designed to provide all front-line health care providers with access to consistent training on proper BP measurement and is now available for health care professionals through the AHA.

In the survey of more than two thousand health care providers, half of the physicians and physician assistants (PAs) who responded, and a third of nurse respondents, said they had not received BP measurement re-training since their initial training in school. However, there seems to be broad support among the survey respondents for BP refresher training, with three-quarters or more of the nurses, PAs, primary care providers and pharmacists surveyed noting that it should be required.

Some common BP measurement errors that can result in pushing a patient’s diagnosis from normal to elevated, include:

  • Taking a reading while a patient is sitting with their legs crossed, which can raise systolic pressure by 5 to 8 mm Hg

  • Using the wrong cuff size, which can raise systolic pressure by approximately 10 mm Hg

“Being able to test this new BP measurement re-training module with our providers on the front lines reinforces our long-standing commitment to advancing heart health and providing high quality care for our patients,” said David Fairchild, M.D., Chief Medical Officer, MinuteClinic. “Our providers appreciated the opportunity to be involved in this effort and we look forward to integrating this training into our clinical standards moving forward.”