Overcollectionitis

By | November 16, 2014

Computers, databases, printers and forms.  One thing they have in common is that they make it really easy to collect information.

But the ease of collecting information makes us management types get greedy, and we ask for everything under the sun.  Just because you can collect information doesn’t mean you should. We call this disease “Overcollectionitis”.

Overcollectionitis comes with a cost.  It makes everything more complicated (especially for the patient and direct professional caregiver).  People have to fill out more information, the information takes longer to process, and becomes more difficult to retrieve and process.

In the end, information is collected and handled with less care and ultimately less useful.

An unfortunate aspect of this that we have observed in health care – is that a lot of information rarely gets used for making good decisions. Worse yet, it could do harm.

Most nurses doing an intake admission and assessment know what the outcome will be within a few minutes of speaking to a client. However, they are often made to go through a 60-90 minute+ documentation exercise. Too many questions can make patients feel hassled.  Worse, clinicians can lose track of the key patient problems when extra and irrelevant questions become a distraction.

Here are a few helpful guidelines to help you decide what to collect:

  • Know what you are going to do with each piece of data you collect.  Otherwise, don’t collect it.  Resist the urge to collect “just in case”.  When that “case” comes, then start collecting.
  • If its going to be collected again later, don’t collect it now (health care is notorious for this).
  • Make data collection “conditional”.  For example, if your client is in for a orthopaedic sports knee injury, you probably don’t need to ask about continence (yes, we’ve seen this).
  • Try to collect only data that is needed for patient-related decision making. Often extra information is collected for other purposes such as accounting, research or health-system-level statistics. Find ways to use the patient-related data only to meet the needs of these other constituents.
  • For every piece of data you collect ask, “Would my decision making come to a different conclusion if I didn’t collect this?”  If the answer is no, don’t collect it.

In the end, everybody will be better for it.

Where have you seen overcollectionitis?

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