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Rheumatology High Blood Pressure Protocol Reduces Disparities, But Delays Remain for External Primary Care.

BACKGROUND/OBJECTIVE: To address high blood pressure (BP) in rheumatology patients, we previously implemented BP Connect, a brief staff-driven protocol to address high BP. Although timely follow-up and hypertension rates improved for patients with in-system primary care (PC), many receive PC and rheumatology care in separate health systems. In this cohort study, we compared rates of timely PC follow-up for high BP across-system health maintenance organizations (HMOs) before and after BP Connect implementation.

METHODS: All adult patients with high rheumatology clinic BP and PC in that HMO were eligible. BP Connect's protocol engaged the staff in remeasuring high BP (≥140/90 mm Hg), advising cardiovascular disease risk, and connecting timely PC follow-up, which for patients with PC across system includes written follow-up instructions. After an eligible rheumatology visit, the next HMO PC visit with BP was used to determine rates and odds of timely follow-up before and after using multivariable logistic regression.

RESULTS: Across 1327 rheumatology visits with high BP and across-system PC (2013-2019), 951 occurred after 2015 BP Connect implementation; 400 had confirmed high BP. Primary care follow-up rose from 20.5% to 23.5%. The odds of timely PC BP follow-up insignificantly changed (odds ratio, 1.19; confidence interval, 0.85-1.68). For visits with Black patients, the odds of timely follow-up did significantly increase (1.95; confidence interval, 1.02-3.79).

CONCLUSIONS: Timely follow-up for Black patients did improve, highlighting protocol interventions for more equitable health care. In contrast to our prior in-system study, BP Connect did not significantly improve follow-up with an across-system PC, indicating a need for direct scheduling. Future directions include piloting direct across-system scheduling.

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