Implementing a Clinical Decision Support Tool to Improve Physical Activity

Margaret M. McCarthy, Adam Szerencsy, Leslie Taza-Rocano, Stephanie Hopkins, Devin Mann, Gail D'Eramo Melkus, Allison Vorderstrasse, Stuart D. Katz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background Currently, only about half of U.S. adults achieve current physical activity guidelines. Routine physical activity is not regularly assessed, nor are patients routinely counseled by their healthcare provider on achieving recommended levels. The three-question physical activity vital sign (PAVS) was developed to assess physical activity duration and intensity and identify adults not meeting physical activity guidelines. Clinical decision support provided via a best practice advisory in an electronic health record (EHR) system can be triggered as a prompt, reminding healthcare providers to implement the best practice intervention when appropriate. Remote patient monitoring of physical activity can provide objective data in the EHR. Objectives This study aimed to evaluate the feasibility and clinical utility of embedding the PAVS and a triggered best practice advisor into the EHR in an ambulatory preventive cardiology practice setting to alert providers to patients reporting low physical activity and prompt healthcare providers to counsel these patients as needed. Methods Three components based in the EHR were integrated for the purpose of this study: Patients completed the PAVS through their electronic patient portal prior to an office visit, a best practice advisory was created to prompt providers to counsel patients who reported low levels of physical activity, and remote patient monitoring via Fitbit synced to the EHR provided objective physical activity data. The intervention was pilot-Tested in the Epic EHR for 1 year (July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022). Qualitative feedback on the intervention from both providers and patients was obtained at the completion of the study. Results Monthly assessments of the use of the PAVS and best practice advisory and remote patient monitoring were completed. Patients' completion of the PAVS varied from 35% to 48% per month. The best practice advisory was signed by providers between 2% and 65% and was acknowledged by 2%-22% per month. The majority (58%) of patients were able to sync a Fitbit device to their EHR for remote monitoring. Discussion Although uptake of each component needs improvement, this pilot demonstrated the feasibility of incorporating a physical activity promotion intervention into the EHR. Qualitative feedback provided guidance for future implementation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)216-223
Number of pages8
JournalNursing research
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2024


  • best practices
  • cardiovascular diseases
  • counseling
  • disease prevention
  • healthcare
  • physical fitness
  • risk factors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Nursing


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