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National Information Center on Health Services Research and Health Care Technology (NICHSR)

How fast do conditions change
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Agencies and organizations that collect data rely on past reports that show how rapidly conditions change. Decisions about when to collect and report conditions are therefore based on an understanding of the mechanisms that cause diseases.

Health conditions may be caused by a number of factors, such as:
  • Genetic predispositions
  • Infectious agents
  • Environmental threats
  • Behavioral patterns or choices or
  • Life style choices

Some of these change faster than others:
  • Genetic factors evolve gradually.
  • Infectious agents or risky behaviors may change in a relatively short period of time.
Decisions about the periodicity of collecting information about health care also depend on an understanding of how fast it is likely to change.

Balancing Speed against Data Quality
The data collection methods used also set limits on how rapidly results can be reported.
  • Detailed case reports compiled by medical professionals can take a long time to collect, especially if they must be based on representative samples.
  • Surveys that use trained interviewers, on the other hand, obtain more approximate information but may be continuously fielded, yielding more current but less complete data.
 
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