Integrating "Exercise Is Medicine" into primary care workflow: a study protocol

Transl Behav Med. 2021 Apr 26;11(4):921-929. doi: 10.1093/tbm/ibaa088.


As a major contributor to the burden of most chronic diseases, insufficient physical activity (PA) creates a significant financial burden on the health care system. Numerous interventions effectively increase PA, but few are integrated into primary care clinic workflows. Exercise Is Medicine (EIM) is a global health initiative committed to the belief that PA is integral to the prevention and treatment of diseases and should be routinely assessed as a vital sign and treated in the health care setting. This paper describes an in-progress embedded quality improvement (QI) project that integrates EIM into routine clinical practice. A combination of implementation science (IS) and QI models are used to adapt, implement, and evaluate the integration of EIM into six primary care clinics. The Practical, Robust Implementation and Sustainability Model (PRISM) guided preimplementation evaluation and adaptation of EIM protocol, materials, and delivery strategies. The learning evaluation QI model is used to design, test, refine, and implement EIM using rapid, 3 month Plan-Do-Study-Act microcycles. Learning meetings are used to obtain feedback and optimize workflow. The Stirman Framework is used to document adaptations to the program throughout implementation. Reach, adoption, implementation, effectiveness, and maintenance outcomes embedded within PRISM will guide the program evaluation to determine sustainability and scalability. Using an innovative approach of combining IS and QI methods to improve the identification of primary care patients with insufficient PA to increase their activity levels has great population health potential. Our work will inform the best approaches for EIM integration in primary care.

Keywords: Exercise Is Medicine; Health care services research; Implementation science; Physical activity; Quality improvement.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Exercise*
  • Humans
  • Implementation Science
  • Primary Health Care*
  • Workflow