Seeing the Patients Behind the Numbers

Data can be useful, but the patient needs to be our priority



Fred N. Pelzman, MedPage Today

In general, I think that good data is a good thing. But is bad data of any use, and is it better than no data at all?

In our lives as healthcare providers, we encounter enormous amounts of data. All day long we are brushed by and inundated with data points, be they individual things like the number of patients on our schedules, or the number of times our patients’ hearts beat as we lay our fingers gently on the wrist to measure their pulses, or listen with our stethoscope to the number of breaths per minute.

Our inboxes and the electronic health record are filled with data, labs that indicate health or illness, or variations about the mean. Is this one dangerous? Is that one bad? Do I need to do something about this? Is this just a fluke?

Due to some internal restructuring, there are an enormous number of new efforts being built or overhauled that look at quality — since this reflects on patient safety — and also for the purpose of regulatory requirements and reporting.

At one meeting this week, we saw data on patient feedback on how our practices are doing, including such items as “Provider listens carefully to you,” “Clerk treats you with courtesy and respect,” and “Phone during office hours answers same day.” (Really, same day? Shouldn’t the goal be one ring or two?) full article