Measure Up Pressure Down Most Improved patchWellmont Medical Associates Nationally Recognized For Reducing Blood Pressure Levels Among Patients

A coordinated effort by Wellmont Medical Associates to recognize, monitor and treat high blood pressure has made a significant dent in one of the most prominent health issues for the region and nation – and led to another national accolade for the physician-led and professionally managed organization.

The medical group was recognized during a celebration Thursday, Dec. 4, for the American Medical Group Foundation and its Measure Up/Pressure Down hypertension campaign. Wellmont Medical Associates earned the Most Improved award among medical groups with fewer than 150 providers, an accomplishment it reached by increasing the number of patients with controlled or normal blood pressure by an additional 20 percentage points.

As a result, 80 percent of Wellmont Medical Associates' patients now have normal blood pressure, far greater than the national average of 47 percent. Additionally, that 80 percent is nearly 10 percentage points higher than the average control rate reported by Measure Up/Pressure Down participants.

"Our success with this important initiative goes beyond numbers – it's a large-scale patient wellness effort that is making a tremendous difference in people's quality of life," said Dr. Stephen Combs, chief executive medical officer of Wellmont Medical Associates and Wellmont Health System's senior vice president for physician and clinical integration.

"By treating this problem in 80 percent of our patients, we're decreasing major health crises, including heart attacks and strokes, for thousands of people in our communities. Not to mention, by alleviating people of their hypertension, we're greatly improving their health status and setting them on a course for longer lives. We commend our patients for understanding the value of controlling their blood pressure and taking appropriate steps to improve their health."

Dr. Combs, a medical doctor, also notes high blood pressure has traditionally been a health concern in the region due to unhealthy eating and exercise habits. Because of those tendencies, he said, Wellmont Medical Associates focused its Measure Up/Pressure Down efforts on implementing its recommended care processes, including lifestyle adjustments, an approach the foundation praised.

"Congratulations to Wellmont Medical Associates for its Most Improved award from the Measure Up/Pressure Down campaign," said Dr. Jerry Penso, a medical doctor and chief medical and quality officer of the American Medical Group Association. "The ongoing improvement by Wellmont Medical Associates over this past year has had a tremendous impact in improving patient health and outcomes in Tennessee and Virginia, and for that, we commend their efforts."

Those processes consisted of the foundation's planks for hypertension success, which include having:

  • Direct care staff trained in accurate blood pressure measurement
  • Hypertension guidelines used and monitored for adherence
  • Blood pressure addressed for every hypertension patient during every primary care visit
  • Thirty-day return visits for patients with uncontrolled blood pressure
  • Prevention, engagement and self-management programs in place
  • A registry used to identify and track hypertension patients
  • All team members trained in the importance of blood pressure goals
  • All specialists intervene with patients whose blood pressure is not in control

Adhering to those measures built upon the efficient continuum of care already established by the primary care physicians, specialists and front-line staff at Wellmont Medical Associates. Dr. Combs also credits Wellmont's electronic health record with enabling providers to identify patients who might need further care with their blood pressure.

Plus, Wellmont Medical Associates spent considerable time educating physicians and nurses the last two years about the importance of controlling blood pressure, Dr. Combs said. He said the medical group developed and provided protocols to providers that specified best practices for blood pressure, control, medication and follow-up.

That comprehensive approach was also the basis for another high-level accolade Wellmont Medical Associates earned this year from the foundation. In October, it was named an Acclaim Award honoree – one of three organizations nationwide to be recognized this year – for its efforts to enhance a patient's care experience, reduce hospital readmissions and increase access to primary care.

"We certainly appreciate these honors and can attribute them to our overarching philosophy at Wellmont Medical Associates to not only care for patients when they're ill but foster a healthy living standard," Dr. Combs said. "Our physicians and other caregivers demonstrate this model every day, and that will bring desirable long-term outcomes for our patients and this region."

For more information about Wellmont Medical Associates, please visit For more information about Measure Up/Pressure Down, please visit