By Jim Pittman – Director of Medicare Advantage Communications
67.5 percent of Louisiana residents over the age of 65 have high blood pressure. We want to help change that.
Ochsner Health Plan works collaboratively with Ochsner Health and other participating providers to make a healthy difference in the lives of members and the overall health of our state. One important way is by offering preventive care resources and health management services that are fully integrated with virtual and in-person programs for chronic, complex conditions that remain highly prevalent in Louisiana. One of those conditions is high blood pressure or hypertension.
“Chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia drive terrible complications like strokes and heart attacks,” said David Houghton, MD, Ochsner Health’s Medical Director of Digital Medicine and Telehealth System Chair. “This is part of the unfortunate fabric of the relatively lower state of health in our surrounding region. However, results over the past few years demonstrate the efficacy of Digital Medicine in reducing the impact of these co-morbidities of the enrolled members.”
Hypertension is a major risk factor for heart disease, the leading cause of death in the U.S.. It also contributes significantly to our country’s fifth-leading cause of death — stroke. According to the 2020 “America’s Health Rankings”, Louisiana ranks 43rd in the U.S. for prevalence of hypertension, with 67.5% our state’s residents over the age of 65 reporting high blood pressure.
High blood pressure often has no signs or symptoms. If not controlled, it can cause damage to the eyes, brain, heart, blood vessels and kidney. It occurs when the pressure inside the arteries is higher than it should be.
“For those enrolled in the Digital Medicine program, we typically see nearly half of our members with uncontrolled hypertension get in control in the first 90 days, and we see fewer ER visits and hospital admissions in that same early time frame,” said Dr. Houghton. “We recognize that if we keep members in the program, get their conditions under control, and reduce complications taking them to the hospital, then this program effectively improves the state’s overall health.”
Because it has no warning signs or symptoms, monitoring blood pressure is imperative, because it’s the only way to know for sure if it is under control. Once diagnosed, however, it can be controlled through a combination of diet, exercise, and medication. Recently revised guidelines lowered the cutoff for what counts as high blood pressure, which means that even more people may unknowingly have it.
Ochsner Health Plan has partnered with Ochsner Digital Medicine to assist members controlling their hypertension. The program will help them manage their high blood pressure at home using a digital device to send readings to their Digital Medicine team who will adjust the member’s care, as needed.
“Ochsner Health Plan is another avenue to get patients enrolled in the Digital Medicine program. And once patients are in the program, they stay in, as our attrition rate is incredibly low,” said Dr. Houghton. “They come in and stay to enjoy the benefits of the relationships they build and maintain. We think this is an important measure of success that will also lead to better outcomes for our region and the entire State of Louisiana.”
Ochsner Digital Medicine combines evidence-based medication management to accompany personalized health coaching with an ongoing data program, which is managed through a digital device and the patient’s smartphone. This chronic-disease outpatient management differs significantly from traditional, episodic patient-doctor relationship.
The Ochsner Digital Medicine program is just one strategy that Ochsner Health will utilize over the next 8 years to improve the overall health of Louisiana and reach its “40-by-30” vision of improving the state’s ranking health ranking to 40th on the “America’s Health Rankings” by the year 2030.
“The long game is to beat this epidemic of chronic disease,” said Dr. Houghton. “We need patients to get in control early and stay in control forever. That is how we are going to lower the complications of these conditions and make our community healthier.”
Ochsner Health Plan is the only Medicare Advantage plan sponsored by and fully integrated with Ochsner Health. For news, updates and job listing, follow Ochsner Health Plan on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.