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Don't Be Shy

Registered nurse Angela Williams-Edwards
Registered nurse Angela Williams-Edwards, a UFCW Local 400 member, reaches out to patients who
need help managing their high blood pressure and also to colleagues eager to adapt successful improvement efforts from her UBT.

It’s great to get and maintain good results—but spreading a proven practice and multiplying its benefits is even better

After their letters to members went unanswered, the members of the Burke Primary Care team changed their approach.

Instead, clinical assistants called patients with the message, “Your doctor is concerned that your blood pressure is not being controlled,” says Angela N. Williams-Edwards, RN, a member of UFCW Local 400, the team’s lead nurse and former labor co-lead. “It worked better because it was more personal.”

This was in 2011, when the team had challenged itself to get more patients’ blood pressure under control and reduce their risk of a wide range of diseases. They succeeded—and their success mushroomed, with the other centers in Northern Virginia adopting it. All Primary Care teams share the goal of having more patients with blood pressure in a healthy range, and there was no reason for the other teams to start at square one since Burke had demonstrated its way worked—and worked well.

Four years ago, to entice members to come in more frequently to better manage their hypertension, the Burke team also made changes to make the visits for blood pressure checks as appealing as possible:

  • Patients could pop in almost any time for the mini-checks, so they could stop when they were at the medical center for other reasons. There was no copay for the quickie visits.
  • The members don’t have to wait long. “If they wait too long,” Williams-Edwards says, “their blood pressure will go up.”
  • If a member’s blood pressure reading was too high, the doctor came in during that same visit to discuss options—possibly making medication changes—and to urge the member to return for a follow-up within 10 to 14 days.

All of these factors helped the Burke unit-based team increase the percentage of patients whose blood pressure is under control from 75 percent in January of 2011 to 85 percent by August of 2011. Today, the team has not only maintained that improvement but surpassed it. As of November 2014, the team boasts that 90 percent of its patients with hypertension have their blood pressure under control.

“Burke worked so hard to have the results sustained,” says Eileen Chiama, who has been the team’s management co-lead and clinical operations manager for about three years. “We achieved these gains through the huddling process and by keeping focused on it. It became part of our normal workflow.”

Moreover, Chiama says, “The workflow process was shared with other medical centers. The way you spread is to find a champion—someone on the team who is so passionate about the goal.” She says Edwards-Williams is that champion at Burke. “Never underestimate the power of one to generate enthusiasm in the rest of the team.”

Marianne Henson, RN, who was the team’s manager when the project first started, says she met regularly with the area’s other internal medicine clinical operations managers. “We share best practices that way,” she says. Now, several Northern Virginia teams—including Henson’s current teams at Falls Church and Tysons Corner—have improved their rate of blood pressure control, too.

Report More From the Spring 2015 Hank
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