Mining electronic health records to promote the reach of digital interventions for cancer prevention through proactive electronic outreach: Protocol for the mixed methods OptiMine study

Michael S. Amato, Sherine El-Toukhy, Lorien C. Abroms, Henry Goodfellow, Alex T. Ramsey, Tracey Brown, Helena Jopling, Zarnie Khadjesari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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BACKGROUND: Digital behavior change interventions have demonstrated effectiveness for smoking cessation and reducing alcohol intake, which ultimately reduce cancer risk. Leveraging electronic health records (EHR) to identify at-risk patients and increasing the reach of digital interventions through proactive electronic outreach provide a novel approach that may increase the number of individuals who engage with evidence-based treatment.

OBJECTIVE: This study aims to increase the reach of digital behavior change interventions by implementing a proactive electronic message system for smoking cessation and alcohol reduction among a large, at-risk population identified through an acute hospital EHR.

METHODS: This protocol describes a 3-phase, mixed-methods implementation study to assess the acceptability, feasibility, and reach of a proactive electronic message system to digital interventions using a hospital's EHR system to identify eligible patients. In Phase 1, we will conduct focus group discussions with patients and hospital staff to assess the overall acceptability of the electronic message system. In Phase 2, we will conduct a descriptive analysis of the patient population in the hospital EHR regarding target risk behaviors and other person-level characteristics to determine the project's feasibility and potential reach. In Phase 3, we will send proactive messages to patients identified as smokers or risky drinkers. Messages will encourage and provide access to behavior change mobile apps via an embedded link; the primary outcome will be the proportion of participants who click on the link to access information about the apps.

RESULTS: At the time of initial protocol submission, data collection was complete, but analysis had not begun. This study was funded by Cancer Research UK from April 2019 to March 2020. Health Research Authority approval was granted in June 2019.

CONCLUSIONS: Increasing the reach of digital behavior change interventions can improve population health by reducing the burden of preventable death and disease.


Original languageEnglish
Article numbere23669
Number of pages10
JournalJMIR Research Protocols
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2020


  • Alcohol reduction
  • EHR
  • Electronic health record
  • Electronic messages
  • Proactive messages
  • Proactive outreach
  • Smoking cessation

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