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Blood pressure monitoring – how can practices ensure accurate readings?

Patients flood into GP practices on a daily basis, each with a different issue or problem. However, for GPs and nurse practitioners, the need to understand what’s at play can often start with a blood pressure reading. Creating the time and space to take the readings can often see health professionals having to compromise on the amount of quality time for conversation – but both are equally important. What has to give?

High blood pressure can increase the risk of developing serious conditions, like as heart attacks and stroke, if it is not treated. However, high blood pressure in itself does not usually have any symptoms. The only way to assess the blood pressure is with regular screening in the GP practice. For the patient, it could spot a silent killer. For the practice, regular blood pressure readings:

  • Meets the needs of the NHS Long Term Plan to use preventative measures to improve the health of the population

  • Meets QOF targets to spot health issues early

  • Provides ongoing monitoring of patients with long-term conditions

  • Forms part of the NHS Health Check on patients between the ages of 40 and 74

Once upon a time, a stethoscope, arm cuff, pump and dial were normally used to measure blood pressure, but today, we’ve leveraged the power of technology to develop automatic devices that measure blood pressure using sensors and digital displays. However, unlike taking a height and weight, blood pressure is a dynamic variable – its value naturally changes in the body over time (your patient may have just had a caffeine hit or be out of breath from running to catch an appointment) and it can also prove inaccurate because of poor technique or inappropriate use of devices.

How can the accuracy of blood pressure readings be improved?

There are several factors that, if addressed, can improve the accuracy of blood pressure readings:

The higher the resting blood pressure, the higher the numbers can go when a patient is speaking and the effect can last several minutes, especially if they are talking about an emotional topic!

If a patient is nervous in the presence of a clinician, blood pressure can rise up to 10 points for systolic and 5 for diastolic. ‘Out of office’ monitoring such as using a device at home or using the EK Health Kiosk in the waiting room to take a reading independently of a clinician can be helpful in these cases.

To obtain an accurate reading it is vital that the patient’s arm is horizontal (and supported) at the level of the heart. If the arm is positioned higher or lower than heart level this causes over or underestimation of both systolic and diastolic pressures. For example, having the patient’s arm lower than heart level can lead to an error of 4 mm Hg up to 23 mm Hg. Therefore, when completing a blood pressure measurement, it is essential that the chair used by the patient is height adjustable so that their arm can be supported at the correct height.

It is also important that the legs are in the correct position when a blood pressure reading is taken. Blood pressure can increase significantly with a crossed leg position. Systolic and diastolic were found to raise approximately 10 and 8 mmHg respectively in one study.

Release Time to Care by Monitoring Blood Pressure with the EK Health Kiosk

At EK our standard health kiosk package comes with a medical grade A&D blood pressure monitor. A tried and trusted unit, it is estimated that you can find an A&D blood pressure unit in over 1 in 7 GP surgeries across the UK. We love this unit as it enables patients to take their own BP (no white coat syndrome!) and when used with our kiosk, results are uploaded directly into the patient record. If the reading is high or low the kiosk will ask the patient to take it again up to three times, with alerts sent to the GP when parameters are breached.

At EK, to make sure that your patients can sit at the correct height, we can also supply a comfortable, gas assisted height adjustable, anti-bacterial vinyl chair with backrest and glides instead of wheels and in available in a gorgeous 13 colours!

You can see a video on the correct usage of the A&D Blood Pressure Unit HERE

By encouraging patients to take their blood pressure using the EK Health Kiosk prior to their appointment you can save valuable time for your clinicians and code blood pressure readings directly into EMIS and SystmOne:

If it hadn’t been for EK’s Kiosks, it wouldn’t have been possible for our practice to have achieved the BP targets for IIF or QOF. We are the highest performing in our PCN and saved hours of clinical time!

By Leicestershire GP

“We have a lot of patients which require BP readings for various QOF indicators and having the kiosks allows us to invite patients via text to use the kiosks to record BPs. This saves the patient time and frees up appointments for other patients. It also reduces the burden on the contact centre as patients don’t need to phone ahead to make the appointment.”

- Glenn Allen, Business Manager,

The Portsdown Group Practice

Let the EK Health Kiosk take care of your Blood Pressure Monitoring

If you are a healthcare clinician or GP practice manager that would like to see how our self-screening health kiosk works, then we'd be happy to arrange a free, no -obligation demo for you:

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