Technical Primer

Advances in the field of ePRO technology

What will you learn?

  • Ways that the ePRO field is advancing
  • Common approaches to ePRO integration with health system technology
  • How this guide will approach technology recommendations

Traditional efforts to collect PROMs have focused on paper administration. For example, a common workflow may involve a patient receiving a clipboard at check-in with a paper PROM to complete prior to the visit. As a modality for data collection, paper has several advantages and is often easy to integrate into an existing workflow.

Yet, paper-based approaches limit the scalability and sustainability of PROMs. Most notably, paper-based approaches limit the ability to visualize PROM data and the capacity to engage with patients outside the healthcare setting, such as for pre-visit planning or remote monitoring.

As a result, recent years have seen significant advancements in the technology available to support ePRO use in the healthcare setting. EHR vendors have improved patient portal functionality and data reporting tools in an effort to adapt to the needs of ePRO users. A multitude of third party apps and web-based platforms have emerged, often offering sophisticated functionality that is rooted in user-centered design.

SMART on FHIR and other API-based (application programing interface, used for exchanging data across technical platforms) functionalities have advanced the potential of technology platforms like EHRs and third party apps to integrate, share data, and operate in tandem during clinical workflow. These technologies present opportunities to advance not only ePRO data collection, but also the manner in which healthcare teams engage with patients about their health, thus facilitating greater inclusion of the patient voice in clinical decision-making. It is important to acknowledge, though, that these tools are continuing to evolve. While health systems may be moving toward ePRO administration, paper-based approaches will likely remain a necessary tool for clinical teams to ensure complete data collection.

Beyond technology used within the healthcare setting, there has also been an increase in the availability of consumer-driven and mobile health (mHealth) technologies that allow patients to track a variety of health symptoms and wellness activities. These tools can empower patients to take a more active role in the self-management of their health and may provide meaningful data to better inform healthcare teams about a patient’s health status.

With the continued development of consumer-driven technologies, we can expect to see extensive change as health systems work to understand the role of these tools and how to better engage with patients.