Validation of a Health System Measure to Capture Intensive Medication Treatment of Hypertension in the Veterans Health Administration
JAMA Network Open
Blood pressure (BP) targets are the main measure of high-quality hypertension care in health systems. However, BP alone does not reflect intensity of pharmacological treatment, which should be carefully managed in older patients. To develop and validate an electronic health record (EHR) data-only algorithm using pharmacy and BP data to capture intensive hypertension care (IHC), defined as 3 or more BP medications and BP less than 120 mm Hg, and to identify conditions associated with greater
... ed with greater IHC, either through greater algorithm false-positive IHC, or by contributing clinically to delivering more IHC. This cross-sectional study was conducted among 319 randomly selected patients aged 65 years or older receiving IHC from the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) from July 1, 2011, to June 30, 2013. Data were collected from a total of 3625 primary care visits. Data were analyzed from January 2017 to March 2020. Calibration and measurement of the algorithm for IHC (algorithm IHC). For each primary care visit, the reference standard, clinical IHC, was determined by detailed review of free-text clinical notes. The correlation in BP medication count between the EHR-only algorithm vs the reference standard and the sensitivity and specificity of the algorithm IHC were calculated. In addition, presence vs absence of contributing conditions acting in combination with hypertension management were measured to examine incidence of IHC associated with contributing conditions, including an acute condition that lowered BP (eg, dehydration), another condition requiring a BP target lower than the standard 140 mm Hg (eg, diabetes), or the patient needing a BP-lowering medication for a nonhypertension condition (eg, β-blocker for atrial fibrillation) resulting in low BP. Among 319 patients with 3625 visits (mean [SD] age, 75.6 [7.2] years; 3592 [99.1%] men), 911 visits (25.1%) had clinical IHC by the reference standard. The algorithm for determining medication count was highly correlated with the reference standard (r = 0.84). Sensitivity of detecting clinical IHC was 92.2% (95% CI, 89.3%-95.1%), and specificity was 97.2% (95% CI, 96.1%-98.3%), suggesting that clinical IHC can be identified from routinely collected data. Only 75 visits (2.1%) were algorithm IHC false positives, 55 visits (1.5%) involved IHC with contributing conditions, and 125 visits (3.5%) involved either false-positive or IHC with contributing conditions. Among select contributing conditions, congestive heart failure (37 patients [5.2%]) was most associated with a prespecified combined false-positive or IHC with contributing conditions rate higher than 5%. These findings suggest that health system data can be used reliably to estimate IHC.