Primary care practice leaders who consider engaging in quality improvement (QI) need to understand the practice level costs incurred when asking staff to take on new tasks. The Heart Healthy Lenoir study is a prospective cohort trial in which QI methods were used to enhance hypertension (HTN) care and reduce racial disparities in blood pressure control in small rural primary care practices in North Carolina. As part of this effort, we performed an activity-based costing analysis to describe the costs incurred to develop, implement, and maintain key tasks.EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
We interviewed 20 practice stakeholders and phone-based health coaches during 2012–2014. We calculated the time invested by individuals to perform each task within each study phase and applied national hourly wages to generate cost estimates. Our descriptive analyses focus on four of the most widely used practices. Activities included time to abstract HTN control data, participate in project meetings, identify patients with uncontrolled HTN, create standardized work, and provide additional health coaching for patients with uncontrolled HTN. Despite practice and staffing differences, the developmental phase costs were similar, ranging from $879 to $1,417. Implementation costs varied more widely as practices took different approaches to identifying patients with uncontrolled HTN. Practice-specific phone health coaching costs ranged from $19,508 to more than $38,000. This study adds to the growing literature regarding practice level costs of engaging in systems change. Understanding these costs and balancing them against practice incentives may be helpful as stakeholders make decisions regarding HTN QI.