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Steinman MA, Fischer MA, Shlipak MG, Bosworth HB, Oddone EZ, Hoffman BB, Goldstein MK. Clinician awareness of adherence to hypertension guidelines. The American journal of medicine. 2004 Nov 15; 117(10):747-54.
PURPOSE: Little is known about how well clinicians are aware of their own adherence to clinical guidelines, an important indicator of quality. We compared clinicians' beliefs about their adherence to hypertension guidelines with data on their actual performance. METHODS: We surveyed 139 primary care clinicians at three Veterans Affairs medical centers, asking them to assess their own adherence to hypertension guidelines. We then extracted data from the centers' clinical databases on guideline-concordant medication use and blood pressure control for patients cared for by these providers during a 6-month period. Data were collected for patients with hypertension and diabetes, hypertension and coronary disease, or hypertension with neither of these comorbid conditions. RESULTS: Eighty-six clinicians (62%) completed the survey. Each clinician saw a median of 94 patients with hypertension (mean age, 65 years). Patients were treated with an average of 1.6 antihypertensive medications. Overall, clinicians overestimated the proportion of their patients who were prescribed guideline-concordant medications (75% perceived vs. 67% actual, P < 0.001) and who had blood pressure levels < 140/90 mm Hg on their last visit (68% perceived vs. 43% actual, P < 0.001). Among individual clinicians, there were no significant correlations between perceived and actual guideline adherence (r = 0.18 for medications, r = 0.14 for blood pressure control; P > or = 0.10 for both). Clinicians with relatively low actual guideline performance were most likely to overestimate their adherence to medication recommendations and blood pressure targets. CONCLUSION: Clinicians appear to overestimate their adherence to hypertension guidelines, particularly with regards to the proportion of their patients with controlled blood pressure. This limited awareness may represent a barrier to successful implementation of guidelines, and could be addressed through the use of provider profiles and point-of-service feedback to clinicians.