Background: The clinical problem list is an important tool for clinical decision making, quality measurement and clinical decision support; however, problem lists are often incomplete and provider attitudes towards the problem list are poorly understood.
Methods: An ethnographic study of healthcare providers conducted from April 2009 to January 2010 was carried out among academic and community outpatient medical practices in the Greater Boston area across a wide range of medical and surgical specialties. Attitudes towards the problem list were then analyzed using grounded theory methods.
Results: Attitudes were variable, and dimensions of variations fit into nine themes: workflow, ownership and responsibility, relevance, uses, content, presentation, accuracy, alternatives, support/education and one cross-cutting theme of culture.
Conclusions: Significant variation was observed in clinician attitudes towards and use of the electronic patient problem list. Clearer guidance and best practices for problem list utilization are needed.