Efficacy of Patient Activation Interventions With or Without Financial Incentives to Promote Prescribing of Thiazides and Hypertension Control: A Randomized Clinical Trial

Peter J. Kaboli, M. Bryant Howren, Areef Ishani, Barry Carter, Alan J. Christensen, Mark W. Vander Weg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Importance: Evidence-based guidelines recommend thiazide diuretics as a first-line therapy for uncomplicated hypertension; however, thiazides are underused, and hypertension remains inadequately managed. Objective: To test the efficacy of a patient activation intervention with financial incentives to promote thiazide prescribing. Design, Setting, and Participants: The Veterans Affairs Project to Implement Diuretics, a randomized clinical trial, was conducted at 13 Veterans Affairs primary care clinics from August 1, 2006, to July 31, 2008, with 12 months of follow-up. A total of 61 019 patients were screened to identify 2853 eligible patients who were not taking a thiazide and not at their blood pressure (BP) goal; 598 consented to participate. Statistical analysis was conducted from December 1, 2017, to September 12, 2018. Interventions: Patients were randomized to a control group (n = 196) or 1 of 3 intervention groups designed to activate patients to talk with their primary care clinicians about thiazides and hypertension: group A (n = 143) received an activation letter, group B (n = 128) received a letter plus a financial incentive, and group C (n = 131) received a letter, financial incentive, and a telephone call encouraging patients to speak with their primary care clinicians. Main Outcomes and Measures: Primary outcomes were thiazide prescribing and BP control. A secondary process measure was discussion between patient and primary care clinician about thiazides. Results: Among 598 participants (588 men and 10 women), the mean (SD) age for the combined intervention groups (n = 402) was 62.9 (8.8) years, and the mean baseline BP was 148.1/83.8 mm Hg; the mean (SD) age for the control group (n = 196) was 64.1 (9.2) years, and the mean baseline BP was 151.0/83.4 mm Hg. At index visits, the unadjusted rate of thiazide prescribing was 9.7% for the control group (19 of 196) and 24.5% (35 of 143) for group A, 25.8% (33 of 128) for group B, and 32.8% (43 of 131) for group C (P < .001). Adjusted analyses demonstrated an intervention effect on thiazide prescribing at the index visit and 6-month visit, which diminished at the 12-month visit. For BP control, there was a significant intervention effect at the 12-month follow-up for group C (adjusted odds ratio, 1.73; 95% CI, 1.06-2.83; P = .04). Intervention groups exhibited improved thiazide discussion rates in a dose-response fashion: group A, 44.1% (63 of 143); group B, 56.3% (72 of 128); and group C, 68.7% (90 of 131) (P = .004). Conclusions and Relevance: This patient activation intervention about thiazides for hypertension resulted in two-thirds of patients having discussions and nearly one-third initiating a prescription of thiazide. Adding a financial incentive and telephone call to the letter resulted in incremental improvements in both outcomes. By 12 months, improved BP control was also evident. This low-cost, low-intensity intervention resulted in high rates of discussions between patients and clinicians and subsequent thiazide treatment and may be used to promote evidence-based guidelines and overcome clinical inertia. Trial Registration: ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT00265538.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e185017
JournalJAMA Network Open
Issue number8
StatePublished - Dec 7 2018


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