Essentia Health recognized as national leader in hypertension control

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) Million Hearts initiative is recognizing 30 public and private health care practices and systems across the country as hypertension control champions for success in helping patients control ...

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) Million Hearts initiative is recognizing 30 public and private health care practices and systems across the country as hypertension control champions for success in helping patients control high blood pressure, including Essentia Health.

"Being a leader in hypertension control is truly being accountable for the health of our population," said Dr. Patrick Twomey, Essentia's chief medical quality officer and chief medical officer, in a news release. "This Million Hearts recognition of our efforts shows one of the many ways that we are fulfilling our vision of being a nationally recognized leader in high quality, integrated health-care services."

To qualify for the Million Hearts recognition, the health system was required to meet a hypertension control rate of 70 percent or more among those patients with high blood pressure. Within Essentia's approximately 63,000 patients with hypertension, the control rate was 82 percent.

"There are so many people in our health system who have had a hand in getting us to our current hypertension performance. It starts, of course, with our dedicated primary care physicians, but also includes cardiologists and nephrologists," Twomey said. "Their supporting cast includes clinic leadership, clinic assistants, nurses, pharmacists and registration staff. Good care is a team sport, and our teamwork is being recognized with this award."

The 2014 Hypertension Control Champions include private and tribal clinical practices and health services, ranging from solo practitioners to large systems and representing both urban and rural areas. Together they care for more than 3.5 million adult patients in 19 different states. Each champion was able to achieve hypertension control rates of 70 percent or more.


"This year we have more champions than ever before, demonstrating that high performance is achievable and that we are on a path to better heart health across the nation," said HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell in a news release. "More and more practices are using evidence-based strategies to help patients keep blood pressure down - a strong sign that we're making progress in preventing heart attacks and strokes."

Nearly one in three American adults has hypertension, also known as high blood pressure. Only half have it under control, putting them at greater risk of developing heart disease or stroke - two of the leading causes of death in the U.S.

"Million Hearts launched this challenge in 2012 to recognize clinicians and health care teams across the country for helping their patients protect heart health," said Centers for Disease Control Director Dr. Tom Frieden. "We implore other health systems to follow the lead of these physicians and clinics which are succeeding in saving lives and preventing disability from avoidable heart disease and stroke."

The 2014 Million Hearts Hypertension Control Champions in Minnesota are: Essentia Health, Duluth; P.S. Rudie Medical Clinic, Duluth.

To be eligible, entrants shared verifiable high-blood-pressure-control data and highlighted successful strategies or best practices adopted by the practice or system, such as the use of health information technology or team-based care. All champions achieved control rates ranging from 70 percent to more than 90 percent of adult patients by using a variety of innovative approaches, including: Making high blood pressure control a priority; using evidence-based guidelines and protocols; designating hypertension champions within a practice or organization; using team-based care models to increase contact with patients; implementing consistent, strategic use of electronic health records that include clinical decision support tools, patient reminders, and registry functionality; staying engaged with patients by offering free blood pressure checks, in-home nurse visits, and medication checks by pharmacists; using public recognition or financial incentives when possible to recognize high-performing clinicians or teams.

"We are excited to host this challenge for the third year and showcase more winners than ever before," said Dr. Janet Wright, a board-certified cardiologist and executive director of Million Hearts. "Like the practices and clinicians recognized in previous years, these 2014 champions are finding innovative, evidence-based ways to detect hypertension, connect patients with appropriate clinical care, and make blood pressure control their goal to save lives from heart attack and stroke."

For more information about the Hypertension Control Challenge and the 2014 Champions, visit

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