Is More Data Driving Less Individualized Healthcare?

Many would agree that the goal of most healthcare professionals is to promote individualized treatment and care for every person who comes through an organization’s doors. Unfortunately, healthcare professionals and leaders are compulsorily focused on meeting regulatory requirements and capturing tons of data which may lead to less focus on individual patients. Unique personal characteristics can get lost in the big data of healthcare that is focused on producing aggregate trends and scores. 

HIM professionals are getting more and more involved in the collection of data and the use of this data for impacting clinical care decisions. While we are not the providers of clinical care, we still play a big role in the data life-cycle and its affect on population health. The fact that HIM professionals are not involved in direct patient care is beneficial to an organization because we can focus on gathering, measuring, and analyzing raw data that is returned to the clinicians in the form of information. Turning this data into meaningful information allows the clinicians to make positive impacts on individual patient outcomes and control healthcare costs by removing some administrative burdens. 

Key regulatory agencies such as The Joint commission are looking for an individualized plan of care for each patient. Meanwhile, Meaningful Use initiatives are pushing for a more statistical approach to capturing the same data on each patient to drive an aggregate snapshot of a patient population. Objectives for aggregate data and composite scores can overlook some individual nuances and take valuable time away from the patient’s one on one time with a clinician. This can put clinicians in a tough spot balancing between all of the different competing requirements.

HIM professionals are here to help find the balance between these objectives by assisting in the development of documentation templates and automated workflows. Pulling data forward in the EMR and minimizing duplicate entries are ways to successfully achieve this. In a perfect world, clinicians should be able to focus their time on gathering data about each patient’s particular condition and individual socioeconomic factors of health. Required regulatory data fields should be easy to find with prompts and they should make sense for a clinician’s normal workflow. These requirements should not be an excuse for non-individualized healthcare.

The quest for individualized healthcare can be difficult when clinicians are bogged down with checklists and requirements. What I hope to see more of in the future is better utilization of HIM professionals’ skills in support of individualized care and regulatory outcomes measurements. This results in a more streamlined workflow for clinicians, more data and information at their fingertips, and ultimately better outcomes for each individual person.

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About the author

Erin Head

Erin Head

Erin Head is the Director of Health Information Management (HIM) and Quality for an acute care hospital in Titusville, FL. She is a renowned speaker on a variety of healthcare and social media topics and currently serves as CCHIIM Commissioner for AHIMA. She is heavily involved in many HIM and HIT initiatives such as information governance, health data analytics, and ICD-10 advocacy. She is active on social media on Twitter @ErinHead_HIM and LinkedIn. Subscribe to Erin's latest HIM Scene posts here.


  • It would seem that time, as it associates to reimbursement, is a key factor in less “individualized healthcare.” One could say that learning a new EHR system creates a learning curve and affects “individualized healthcare,” but when you formulate that it means less time with the patient to spend more time on the computer. Once the learning curve is accomplished documentation time increases.

    I once had an OBGYN boast to me that he sees 64 patients a day. My response was that he was just “seeing” them and not providing adequate patient/provider interactive time. Time is money in the medical field. The less time you spend the more patients you see and the more reimbursement you can bill for.

    The vast majority of the “patient data” is input by nurses prior and post office and procedural visit. The “data” is customizable within the various reports the physician can run to have a concise, detailed report on the patient as it relates to the diagnosis, so as to enable less time in reading the desired report.

    “Less individualize health care” is perpetuated by the physician, nurses and various support staff who care for the individual patient. The patient electronic chart requires the same data as the handwritten chart’s used to. Granted there are a few additional lines on the Doc flow sheets and smart links that auto pull various data into the doctor’s notes, but all of these are exercised by the nurse and the provider’s decision to document such data and are customizable as a document.

    The computer does not dictate what is medically required within a medical record. Human run medical credentialing agencies, health insurance companies, government agencies and state auditing agencies determine the required data that needs to be entered. Human’s create policies. The computer just provides the Activities and Navigators to systematically enter said data. An interesting observation is that RNs are now asking that the EHR provide more social and behavioral information within the EHR chart, but must realize that they are humans who must enter that specific data, or allow access for the patient to enter it. “Data and Individualized Healthcare” are specific to the individual providers, nurses and clinical support staff. Individual doctors and nurses care and serve individual patients. The computer is the repository of the various data that the medical policies, procedures, laws and best practices require. These were established by other humans. Humans drive less individualized healthcare.

  • Well said Scott, the providers complain that the EHR takes time from the patient but it also improves patient safety. I have been the nurse trying to read a physician handwriting or receiving a verbal order that may or may not have been heard incorrectly. The meaningful use requirements and core measures standards of care are part of the medical and governmental requirements and not the brainchild of some EHR developer to make you need a system in your office or facility. But EHRs do make it easier for a provider to meet theses standards even if they do not embrace said requirements.

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