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Health care data collection methods

April 25, 2022

More data was created in the last two years than in the entire human history before that, so it’s little wonder that health care data collection is a high priority for the medical field.1 For any of this vast amount of information to be functional, all of the data needs to be processed, stored and then analyzed. In an industry like health care, where the latest technology is used, the potential for more accurate and complete patient data is huge. Data collection technology would allow patient data to instantly be available across departments, and the collaborative nature of practices within hospitals can help improve the accuracy of the data collection.

So why does health care data collection matter? High-quality patient data is critical when it comes to advising medical care. On a small scale, you need access to your own medical information so you can manage your conditions. Your care team needs access to the most recent data collected about you, as well as your existing healthcare history, in order to guide treatment and give you the best care possible. On a larger scale it allows for market competitiveness, use of artificial intelligence, cost reductions, outbreak prevention and more.

Read on to explore the different types of health care data that can be collected, as well as the advantages and challenges for each type.

Administrative Data

As a health care facility provides and pays for care, it creates administrative data about the demographics of the population its physicians treat. They also track which services are used and the chargers incurred for those services. This is often done at the individual level, and the data can be collected from health care providers’ systems, claims, enrollment and encounters. The data usually includes the type of service, quantity of units (days of service for example), diagnosis and medical codes for services, where the service took place, and how much was billed and reimbursed.2

Administrative data is helpful since it’s electronically available and less expensive than acquiring medical record data. You can find data for an entire population and across payers (like Medicare), and when you look, the coding systems and practices are mostly uniform, so you know what to expect. The complications arise when it comes to the accuracy for public reporting. The primary purpose of administrative data is billing, so there’s limited clinical information and it’s not always complete or updated quickly.3

Patient Medical Records

The rise of electronic health records (EHR) has solved many of the issues that occurred when patient health care data collection was handwritten and kept in filing cabinets. First, it allows for the sharing of medical records with other medical professionals and the patients themselves, saving both time and money. It also has the added benefit of fewer paper files getting lost and prevents the issue of illegible handwritten notes. But the biggest benefit was that this electronic shift allowed researchers to easily collect helpful data in their studies of diseases and treatments across large groups of people.4

Initially, there were worries that collecting health care data via a computer screen would mean doctors would spend less time interacting face-to-face with patients, causing a rift in the relationship between the doctor and patient. There were also concerns about the security of digital files, and the ethical use of patient data. The fear that patients’ health data would be shared without their knowledge, or worse, hacked and stolen, was high. These concerns and threats were mitigated with firewalls, intrusion detection software and antivirus software. Now, hospitals and other medical facilities are making the shift to keeping EHRs on cloud based storage with an aim to reduce cost of storage and enhance shareability of health care data.4

Patient Surveys

Sometimes the best way to get answers is to go straight to the source. Patient surveys allow health care data analysts to collect self-reported information from patients about their experiences in the hospital or medical facility. Topics covered usually include quality of care, service or treatment received by the patient, as well as their perception of the outcomes of the treatment. These surveys help hospitals improve quality of care and can enhance accountability by increasing transparency about the level of service at that specific facility.5

Patients are the best source of information, which makes this health care data collection method one of the best and most well-established for survey design and administration. And it helps that these surveys are easy for patients to understand and relate to. However, the cost of survey administration can sometimes be a limiting factor. There’s also always a possibility of misleading results. Sometimes questions can be worded poorly, procedures aren’t standardized, the sample population isn’t actually representative of the whole population, or the population isn’t represented at all in the responses.

Anecdotal Information

This health care data collection method stems from comments gathered from individual patients. This information is collected informally, rather than by a carefully designed standardized research effort. Anecdotal information has become more prevalent as private websites, such as Yelp, Facebook and Google reviews, make it possible for patients to share their personal experiences and opinions about hospitals, physicians and health plans.6

Sometimes this works out to the hospitals’ and physicians’ advantage. A stellar first hand review can be a good indicator about the quality of service and care others can expect to receive, and a compelling reason to go see that particular doctor. It’s also an effective way to give feedback. However, it’s not an impartial method since comments aren’t gathered in a systematic way. Websites that provide patient ratings of doctors usually have only a few reviews per physician, which means it’s not a balanced or reflective representation of the experiences of their entire patient population.

Health Care Data Collection Is Vital

The necessity of health care data collection methods cannot be overstated as it helps medical professionals quickly assess a multitude of important factors in order to deliver care. Whether for personal, public or governmental reasons, data collection and analysis can help give a clearer view of a patient’s health. With advantages in the field of health care technology, it’s easier than ever for health care data analysts to process information quickly, find patterns and answers to share it with other health care providers. Effective gathering and organizing of data can be vital to engaging patients, developing superior treatments and conserving valuable resources within the health care industry.

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  1. Retrieved on March 30, 2022, from hostingtribunal.com/blog/big-data-stats/
  2. Retrieved on March 30, 2022, from ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4485511/
  3. Retrieved on March 30, 2022, from bmchealthservres.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12913-016-1489-0
  4. Retrieved on March 30, 2022, from linkedin.com/pulse/medical-patient-data-collection-past-present-future-kristina-arezina/
  5. Retrieved on March 30, 2022, from cms.gov/Medicare/Quality-Initiatives-Patient-Assessment-Instruments/HospitalQualityInits/HospitalHCAHPS
  6. Retrieved on March 30, 2022, from ahrq.gov/talkingquality/measures/understand/index.html