For Some, At-Home Blood Pressure Monitoring May Be A Good Idea
"You're probably familiar with the blood pressure device at your doctor's office. A staff member squeezes the bulb, the inflatable cuff grips your arm and the device soon provides the two numbers that describe your blood pressure. But for some people, also measuring blood pressure between check-ups might be a good idea."
Dr. Stephen Jay: People are increasingly using the home blood pressure monitoring kits to do that.
Lewis: That's Dr. Stephen Jay. He's a professor of medicine and public health at the IU School of Medicine. He recently co-authored a study that found benefits from at-home blood pressure monitoring. A lot of people may be able to use the information it provides.
Dr. Jay: We've been struck by the fact that hypertension is really a prevalent problem. It's a major driver of morbidity and mortality. It's the single largest modifiable risk factor for preventing cardiovascular disease and death in the United States so it's a big deal.
Lewis: But when you walk into your health care provider's office, that one-time check may not give an accurate picture of your usual blood pressure.
Dr. Jay: We know that the clinic blood pressure, when you go into a clinic, many people see a white coat, their blood pressure goes up, they have white coat hypertension. Some people go into a clinic, see their physician, their blood pressure is normal, but actually at home it’s higher. That’s called masked hypertension. So inaccuracies in taking the blood pressure lead to problems – overdiagnosis and underdiagnosis -- so that’s a significant issue. Home blood pressure monitoring has been shown to address that problem. It gives more accurate information to the clinician and patient so they can make decisions.
Lewis: The American Heart Association recommends that everyone with high blood pressure check their measurements at home to help their doctor manage the condition better. But here’s a problem: These can be pricy for people on a limited income. And as Dr. Jay notes:
Dr. Jay: The problem is that it’s not reimbursed widely in the US either through private or public insurers. And so it’s not utilized to the extent that it should be utilized. For these reasons, we started looking at why don’t insurance companies pay for blood pressure kits and for the process of using these kits to diagnose and manage hypertension.
Lewis: In his new study, Dr. Jay and co-authors found that using home blood pressure monitors can save health insurers money, both in the first year of use and over the long run.
Dr. Jay: We hope that as this word is disseminated to the insurance companies at both private and federal levels that they will begin to take this more seriously and start reimbursing for this … We’re hoping that insurance companies will begin to put these in the hands of patients.
Lewis: If you decide you want to start tracking your blood pressure at home, your health care provider can tell you how often to check it.