Innovative Blood Pressure Initiative Expands to the Finger Lakes

By Dawn Bush

To control high blood pressure, patients have been encouraged to “know your numbers.”  Now medical practices in the Finger Lakes are heeding that advice. Finger Lakes healthcare practices received their first high blood pressure “numbers”—a report showing the percentage of patients in each practice who are keeping their high blood pressure under control.

High blood pressure contributes to one-half of heart disease deaths and is a leading cause of stroke and liver failure.  If blood pressure is not controlled through diet and exercise, it can generally be controlled with medication. “This is one condition we know how to fix. With the right medications, high blood pressure is relatively easy and inexpensive to keep in check,” explains Al Bradley, the agency’s senior program manager for high blood pressure initiatives.

The effectiveness of treatment is a key reason that high blood pressure—also known as hypertension—has been identified as an important priority by S2AY Rural Health Network counties their County Health Improvement Plans.  Based on national and local rates, 125,000 people—one third of adults in the Finger Lakes—are estimated to have high blood pressure.

The initiative focuses on helping medical practices know hypertension control rates among their patients. The reports are compiled from electronic medical records that are stripped of all personally identifying information and will be issued twice per year.  This first report includes data from more than 40,000 individuals, about one third of residents estimated to have high blood pressure in the Finger Lakes. The tally shows that the overall high blood pressure control rate for Chemung, Livingston, Ontario, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Wayne and Yates Counties stands at 72 percent.

In this initial Finger Lakes report, the number of patients by county varies widely, from 11,733 in Wayne County to only 28 in Schuyler County, making the data for underrepresented counties less statistically meaningful, according to Bradley. The agency is working to enlist more practices and eventually hopes to have records for at least half of Finger Lakes residents who have been diagnosed with high blood pressure.

The project is made possible through a partnership among medical practices, the S2AY Rural Health Network, and the Finger Lakes Health Systems Agency, the region’s independent health planning organization which collects and analyzes the data, and the Rochester Business Alliance’s health care planning team.  “As far as we know, this project is the nation’s only community-wide hypertension registry that involves more than one hospital system,” says Dr. Thomas Mahoney, chief medical officer for the agency. “This is cutting edge.”

The innovative data initiative puts the region at the forefront of the national effort to improve population health through the use of neutral, transparent statistics.  For information about controlling hypertension, visit: To find out more about the registry, contact the S2AY Rural Health Network at

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