The ability of patients and providers to share blood pressure data through electronic health records is helping to track progress for Million Hearts, an initiative of the Department of Health and Human Services to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes by 2017 by controlling the blood pressure of 10 million Americans.

According to new electronic clinical quality measures (eCQMs) data from the Medicare EHR Incentive Program, one-third (36 percent) of reporting providers met the Million Hearts clinical target of 70 percent or more of their patients with hypertension under control. In addition, among providers that started in 2011— the very first year of the EHR Incentive Program—the average proportion of patients with hypertension in control remained unchanged at 62-63 percent during 2011-2013.

“The first three years of the meaningful use program yielded [eCQMs] data from 63,000 healthcare providers and about 17 million patients with hypertension, which represents large portions of healthcare provider and patient populations,” write Thomas Mason, M.D., the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT’s chief medical officer, and Million Hearts Executive Director Janet Wright, M.D., in an April 30 blog. “The eCQM data reported as part of that program demonstrates that continuous quality improvement can be used to track national progress towards an important health goal—preventing 1 million heart attacks and strokes by 2017.”

Also See: HHS, CDC Launch Challenge to Control Hypertension with HIT

However, Mason and Wright also caution that “eCQMs may not maximize the available data,” pointing out for example that the blood pressure control measure does not capture patient-generated data—such as measurements from a home blood pressure cuff—as well as clinical notes stored as free text in the EHR. While “improving and enhancing eCQMs, and making sure that health IT can use health data from a variety of sources, are key components of the Federal Health IT Strategic Plan, and the draft Interoperability Roadmap,” they emphasize that “we still have work to do.”

The eCQM article, co-authored by Wright and published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, is available here.

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