MASSDEVICE ON CALL — A computer algorithm may be able to help physicians monitor patients for signs of hypertension, a disease known as "the silent killer."
Researchers at Northwestern Medicine developed a trio of algorithms to review patients’ electronic health records and alert healthcare providers that a patient may have or may be developing hypertension.
"With this study, we created a surveillance system that notifies the medical staff and the primary care physician anytime a patient who is at risk arrives in the office," principal investigator Dr. Michael Rakotz said in prepared remarks. "This surveillance system never stops running, so any patient that meets the EHR algorithm criteria for possible hypertension will automatically be flagged."
The research team let the EHR algorithm run through records at 23 sites, following more than 1,000 at-risk patients for 12 months. By the end of the study period, the program had picked up more than 360 previously undetected cases of hypertension, as well as 290 cases of white-coat hypertension, pre-hypertension, or elevated blood pressure.
Researchers said the program helped reduce the risk of a patient remaining undiagnosed by 72% over a 30-month period.
"Hypertension is easy to miss if someone is seeing multiple physicians," study co-author Dr. David Baker said. "A patient may see one doctor who thinks the blood pressure is due to the patient not feeling well that day and then see another doctor for a different problem who thinks the blood pressure is high because the patient was hurrying to make the appointment. No one puts all of these readings together and realizes a person’s blood pressure is always elevated."
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