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

Health Statistics and Health Records
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Health Statistics show the population’s health as contrasted with health records that document information about an individual, their health status and use of health care.

Health records serve a distinct purpose. The design, evaluation and use of these records reflects those goals.
  • Health records emphasize accurate recording of the facts related to an individual case, while statistical records focus on the consistency of records for a group of cases.
  • These different emphases define the limits of personal and statistical records. Statistical files exhibit statistical uncertainty while health case records may not contain the items for each case. 
  • Providers maintain health care records to track the progress of their patients and document their service. Health Statistics may draw on these records as sources, but their goal is to estimate indicators for groups.
  • Using health records in statistical analysis therefore requires statisticians to introduce procedures to achieve consistency or approximate it. 
  • Health statistics records are almost never adequate as records of individual care.

For a description of the personal health record and an explanation of how it is used see the website of the American Academy of Family Physicians.
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