HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was in Denver this week to recognize Kaiser Permanente’s Colorado region as a 2012 Hypertension Control Champion. Colorado’s Kaiser Permanente is one of only two health care providers in the US to receive the commendation from HHS’s Million Hearts initiative.
Nationally, more than half of hypertension cases are not under control (36 million uncontrolled cases out of 67 million total cases). In 2008, Kaiser Permanente members in Colorado had a 61% control rate, and that number has climbed to 82.6% thanks to an intensive effort on the part of Kaiser Permanente to continually work with patients to control hypertension. Sebelius said that Kaiser Permanente’s efforts have proven that “… by making high blood pressure a priority every day with every patient, control can be achieved by both large and small providers — and everyone in between”
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in America. High blood pressure is often the start of the problems, leading to more significant – and expensive – troubles like heart attacks and strokes. Controlling hypertension is a much more cost-effective (and life-lengthening) strategy than waiting to treat heart disease until after a patient has suffered a heart attack or stroke or other serious problem. Kudos to Colorado’s Kaiser Permanente for showing that it’s possible to greatly increase the percentage of patients whose hypertension is under control.
A Colorado Kaiser Permanente small group health insurance plan was also recently selected to be the benchmark health insurance plan whose “essential benefits” will be matched by other individual and small group plans in Colorado, starting in 2014. Kaiser Permanente is somewhat unique in that it functions as both a health insurance plan and also a healthcare provider. But whatever model the Kaiser healthcare facilities are using to get such good hypertension control will likely also become a benchmark for other healthcare providers as they strive to replicate Kaiser’s results.