Original Research

Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 25, Issue 4, pp 581-585

First online:

Joy and Challenges in Improving Chronic Illness Care: Capturing Daily Experiences of Academic Primary Care Teams

  • Julie K. JohnsonAffiliated withCentre for Clinical Governance Research, Faculty of Medicine, University of New South Wales Email author 
  • , Donna M. WoodsAffiliated withFeinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University
  • , David P. StevensAffiliated withThe Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice
  • , Judith L. BowenAffiliated withOregon Health & Science University
  • , Lloyd P. ProvostAffiliated withAssociates in Process Improvement
  • , Connie S. SixtaAffiliated withSixta Consulting, Inc.
  • , Ed H. WagnerAffiliated withMacColl Institute for Healthcare Innovation, Group Health Center for Health Studies

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Two chronic care collaboratives (The National Collaborative and the California Collaborative) were convened to facilitate implementing the chronic care model (CCM) in academic medical centers and into post-graduate medical education.


We developed and implemented an electronic team survey (ETS) to elicit, in real-time, team member’s experiences in caring for people with chronic illness and the effect of the Collaborative on teams and teamwork.


The ETS is a qualitative survey based on Electronic Event Sampling Methodology. It is designed to collect meaningful information about daily experience and any event that might influence team members’ daily work and subsequent outcomes.


Forty-one residency programs from 37 teaching hospitals participated in the collaboratives and comprised faculty and resident physicians, nurses, and administrative staff.


Each team member participating in the collaboratives received an e-mail with directions to complete the ETS for four weeks during 2006 (the National Collaborative) and 2007 (the California Collaborative).


At the team level, the response rate to the ETS was 87% with team members submitting 1,145 narrative entries. Six key themes emerged from the analysis, which were consistent across all sites. Among teams that achieved better clinical outcomes on Collaborative clinical indicators, an additional key theme emerged: professional work satisfaction, or “Joy in Work”. In contrast, among teams that performed lower in collaborative measures, two key themes emerged that reflected the effect of providing care in difficult institutional environments—“lack of professional satisfaction” and awareness of “system failures”.


The ETS provided a unique perspective into team performance and the day-to-day challenges and opportunities in chronic illness care. Further research is needed to explore systematic approaches to integrating the results from this study into the design of improvement efforts for clinical teams.


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