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The provider perspective: investigating the effect of the Electronic Patient-Reported Outcome (ePRO) mobile application and portal on primary care provider workflow

  • Parminder K. Hans (a1), Carolyn Steele Gray (a1) (a2), Ashlinder Gill (a2) and James Tiessen (a3)

This qualitative study investigates how the Electronic Patient-Reported Outcome (ePRO) mobile application and portal system, designed to capture patient-reported measures to support self-management, affected primary care provider workflows.


The Canadian health system is facing an ageing population that is living with chronic disease. Disruptive innovations like mobile health technologies can help to support health system transformation needed to better meet the multifaceted needs of the complex care patient. However, there are challenges with implementing these technologies in primary care settings, in particular the effect on primary care provider workflows.


Over a six-week period interdisciplinary primary care providers (n=6) and their complex care patients (n=12), used the ePRO mobile application and portal to collaboratively goal-set, manage care plans, and support self-management using patient-reported measures. Secondary thematic analysis of focus groups, training sessions, and issue tracker reports captured user experiences at a Toronto area Family Health Team from October 2014 to January 2015.


Key issues raised by providers included: liability concerns associated with remote monitoring, increased documentation activities due to a lack of interoperability between the app and the electronic patient record, increased provider anxiety with regard to the potential for the app to disrupt and infringe upon appointment time, and increased demands for patient engagement. Primary care providers reported the app helped to focus care plans and to begin a collaborative conversation on goal-setting. However, throughout our investigation we found a high level of provider resistance evidenced by consistent attempts to shift the app towards fitting with existing workflows rather than adapting much of their behaviour. As health systems seek innovative and disruptive models to better serve this complex patient population, provider change resistance will need to be addressed. New models and technologies cannot be disruptive in an environment that is resisting change.

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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Corresponding author
Correspondence to: Parminder K. Hans, Bridgepoint Collaboratory, Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute, Sinai Health System, 1 Bridgepoint Drive, Toronto, ON, Canada, M4M 2B5. Email:
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