Making more blood pressure monitors available in GP waiting rooms could increase the detection and monitoring of hypertension.
Researchers from the University of Oxford found that patients without a history of high blood pressure often checked their blood pressure while waiting for a GP appointment.
Those with high blood pressure self-screened to avoid the feelings they associated with “white coat syndrome” and to have more control of the measurement process.
The study,* published today in the British Journal of General Practice (BJGP), found that patients often don’t know about the availability of self-measurement and may need help with the technique. Some patients were concerned about measuring blood pressure in a public place. Several preferred monitoring their blood pressure in the waiting room, than doing it at home.
Responding to the findings, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the RCGP, said: “We always encourage patients to take a keen interest in their own health, particularly in advance of a consultation with their GP where additional information can be considered, and this study builds on previous research suggesting that self-screening tests to monitor blood pressure in GP waiting rooms can have a number of benefits.
“If patients are comfortable and able to use these devices ahead of their appointment, this can save time during the consultation and enable discussion of more pertinent issues – or, perhaps highlight that there is a problem with the patient’s blood pressure that needs to be addressed more formally. Taking the blood pressure test away from the consultation room can also help to mitigate some of the effects of ‘white coat syndrome’ for some patients, thereby achieving a more natural blood pressure reading.”
She added: “However, we must also recognise that this won’t work for everyone – some patients might not be comfortable taking their own blood pressure in the waiting room, or confident in determining whether to bring the results up in their consultation or not, and this could lead to its own form of anxiety that could affect the blood pressure readings. Blood pressure readings are an important diagnostic tool for GPs, so it is important that they are as accurate as possible – and are interpreted correctly.
“This is certainly an idea worth exploring, particularly at a time when general practice is under intense resource and workforce pressures – but ultimately it needs to be the decision of the individual patient and their GP as to whether they want to take their own blood pressure ahead of a consultation, or not.”