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CMAJ. 1986 Jun 1;134(11):1247-55.

Do family physicians need medical assistants to detect and manage hypertension?


To test a new approach to detecting and managing hypertension, 34 family practices in southwestern Ontario that comprised 32 124 patients aged 20 to 65 years were randomly assigned in a 5-year study to either undertake a system of care in which a medical assistant oversaw screening and attended to education, compliance and follow-up (experimental group) or continue their usual practices (control group). The 17 physicians in the experimental practices (15 659 patients) were matched with the 17 in the control practices (16 465 patients) according to size of the community, sex, level of practice activity and length of time in practice. Hypertension was defined as at least two diastolic blood pressure readings over 90 mm Hg. More patients in the experimental group than in the control group were screened at least once (91% v. 80%); the former were more likely to have lower systolic blood pressure (p less than 0.02), to be compliant (p less than 0.05) and to be very satisfied with care (p less than 0.01). There were no significant differences between the two groups in the rates of illness and death due to cardiovascular disease for all patients or for hypertensive patients. The unassisted family physician can provide effective care for hypertensive patients. However, minor modifications in the physician's practices can improve care.

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