Advancing the use of patient-reported outcomes in practice: understanding challenges, opportunities, and the potential of health information technology

  • Chun-Ju HsiaoEmail author
  • Christine Dymek
  • Bryan Kim
  • Brigid Russell



The effective use of patient-reported outcomes (PROs) can play a critical role in improving health care delivery and patient experience with care. However, PROs are not widely collected and used in clinical practice. This study aims to understand current opportunities and challenges with the use of PROs and the potential for health information technology (IT) to advance their use.


The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality held two technical expert panel (TEP) meetings to discuss the current use of PROs, challenges, and opportunities in implementation, and how health IT can be leveraged to support effective PRO use in clinical practice. Results were synthesized to identify major themes and takeaways based on different stages of PRO data utilization.


Findings from the TEP meetings indicated varying degrees of PRO usage in ambulatory care settings. Practices often lack a business case to collect PROs. Primary care physicians face more challenges than specialists in selecting appropriate PRO measures due to extensive variation in their patient populations. Providers also need training to use PRO data for shared decision making and population health management. Potential research areas to address PRO implementation challenges include measures harmonization, implementation process and workflow, electronic data collection and integration, and user-friendly data displays.


Opportunities exist during different stages of PRO implementation to advance the use of PROs in clinical practice. Health IT can be utilized to address challenges in data collection, integration, and visualization to make PRO data accessible and understandable to patients and providers.


Health information technology Patient-reported outcomes Ambulatory care Primary care 



We thank Dr. Arlene Bierman, Director of the Center for Evidence and Practice Improvement at the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), for her guidance in conceptualizing the two technical expert panel meetings and providing strategic direction for AHRQ’s efforts to advance the use of patient-reported outcomes in practice.


No funding was received for this work.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

The technical expert panel meetings were conducted as a consultation exercise with individuals who have expertise in PROs and health IT. Ethical approval was therefore not obtained.

Informed consent

For this type of study, formal consent is not required.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Agency for Healthcare Research and QualityRockvilleUSA
  2. 2.The Joint CommissionWashingtonUSA

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