- With a $15 million grant from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine will be leading a $15 million population health management research consortium focused on improving hypertension control. The Healthy Hearts in the Heartland collaboration will provide education and assistance for 300 clinics and other healthcare providers located in Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin seeking to cut the rate of costly and serious cardiovascular problems.
“This project will provide important insights into how doctors and other health care providers can best enact and sustain strategies for evidence-based quality improvement in cardiovascular health,” said Dr. Abel Kho, principal investigator for the project, assistant professor of medicine at Feinberg and director of Feinberg’s Center for Health Information Partnerships.
“Feinberg has a long history of innovative research in cardiovascular disease and its prevention,” added Dr. Eric G. Neilson, vice president for medical affairs and Lewis Landsberg Dean at Feinberg. “The new consortium is well-positioned to continue that tradition.”
Nearly one-third of patients in the United States has some degree of hypertension, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and only half of those diagnosed with high blood pressure qualify as having the condition under control. With $46 billion in attributed healthcare costs and more than 350,000 deaths per year, reducing hypertension and associated cardiovascular events like stroke and heart attacks has become a top priority for the industry.
The CDC and HHS have promoted the Million Hearts Challenge as a way to lower the incidence of heart attack and strokes while rewarding healthcare providers for demonstrating improved hypertension control among their patient populations. The Million Hearts program aims to increase the rate of hypertension control to 70 percent or more of patients.
A growing number of organizations have been recognized as “champions” over the first two years of the program, “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 February. “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.”
The Healthy Hearts in the Heartland collaboration will help give providers the tools they need to make similar progress, Northwestern says. The partnership will educate healthcare organizations about key evidence-based population health management techniques such as appropriately prescribing aspirin, encouraging smoking cessation, managing high cholesterol, and promoting healthier lifestyle choices for patients. They will also study how smaller, independent healthcare providers can enact meaningful interventions with limited budgets and resources.
Several of the Midwest’s Regional Extension Centers (RECs) will be participating in the program, including Chicago Health IT Regional Extension Center (CHITREC), Purdue Regional Extension Center (PurdueREC), Northern Illinois University and the Illinois Regional Extension Center (IL-HITREC), and Metastar, the REC for Wisconsin. Other participants include Purdue University, the American Medical Association, the Alliance of Chicago, the University of Chicago, Illinois’ Medicare Quality Improvement Organization Telligen, and a number of local and state public health departments.