Background: Exercise is Medicine (EIM) is a health promotion strategy for addressing physical inactivity in healthcare. However, it is unknown how to successfully implement the processes.
Purpose: The purpose of this study was to understand how implementing EIM influenced provider behaviors in a university-based healthcare system, using a process evaluation.
Methods: A multiple baseline, time series design was used. Providers were allocated to three groups. Group 1 (n=11) was exposed to an electronic medical record (EMR) systems change, EIM-related resources, and EIM training session. Group 2 (n=5) received the EMR change and resources but no training. Group 3 (n=6) was only exposed to the systems change. The study was conducted across three phases. Outcomes included asking about patient physical activity (PA) as a vital sign (PAVS), prescribing PA (ExRx), and providing PA resources or referrals. Patient surveys and EMR data were examined. Time series analysis, chi-square, and logistic regression were used.
Results: Patient survey data revealed the systems change increased patient reports of being asked about PA, χ2(4) = 95.47, p < .001 for all groups. There was a significant effect of training and resource dissemination on patients receiving PA advice, χ2(4) = 36.25, p < .001. Patients receiving PA advice was greater during phase 2 (OR = 4.7, 95% CI = 2.0-11.0) and phase 3 (OR = 2.9, 95% CI = 1.2-7.4). Increases were also observed in EMR data for PAVS, χ2(2) = 29.27, p <. 001 during implementation for all groups. Increases in PA advice χ2(2) = 140.90, p < .001 occurred among trained providers only. No statistically significant change was observed for ExRx, PA resources or PA referrals. However, visual analysis showed an upwards trend among trained providers.
Conclusions: An EMR systems change is effective for increasing the collection of the PAVS. Training and resources may influence provider behavior but training alone increased provider documentation. The low levels of documented outcomes for PA advice, ExRx, resources, or referrals may be due to the limitations of the EMR system. This approach was effective for examining the EIM Solution and scaled-up, longer trials may yield more robust results.