Hypertensive ED patients: Missed opportunities for addressing hypertension and facilitating outpatient follow-up

Published:October 04, 2018DOI:



      Hypertension is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality. The emergency department (ED) frequently serves populations with unmet health needs and could have a greater and more systematic role in secondary prevention for hypertension. This study sought to determine, among hypertensive patients discharged from the ED, the frequency that patients 1) received hypertension-specific education, and 2) followed-up with a primary care provider. We secondarily assessed participant beliefs about hypertension.


      This non-experimental, observational study enrolled a convenience sample of consenting patients with asymptomatic, markedly elevated blood pressure (systolic ≥160 mmHg or diastolic ≥100 mmHg) with medium to low triage acuity discharged from an urban, academic ED. Discharge instructions were assessed through chart review. Patients followed up per their normal routine without intervention. Participants were interviewed by phone two to four weeks after ED discharge to ascertain outpatient follow-up and describe beliefs about hypertension.


      From April through June 2014, 200 patients were approached, of whom 90 were enrolled. Of these, 77% of patients reported a previous diagnosis of hypertension, and 60% reported current treatment with antihypertensive medications. Five patients (5.5%) received written instructions at discharge addressing hypertension, although 59 (65.6%) reported that they were informed about their elevated blood pressure during the ED visit. Follow-up with a primary care provider within 2–4 weeks of discharge was completed in 57% of cases. None of the patients who received hypertension-specific discharge instructions completed follow-up.


      Over half of markedly hypertensive patients discharged from the ED followed up with primary care within four weeks. Nonetheless, missed opportunities for improved secondary prevention among ED patients with hypertension are common. There is an urgent need for evidence-based interventions to assist emergency departments in addressing this health threat.


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