Patient Safety & Clinical Quality

Patient Safety: Which Type of Data Collection is Better ?

Applying the photo versus video analogy to hospital data collection in order to improve patient safety.

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Look at the photo below:

man with a fishing pole

What does it tell you?

You can assess a fair amount about the subject: the weather, time of day, approximate age of the individual, etc. We can see that the man in the photo is lying on the ground, holding a fishing pole and his dog is caught in the fishing net. Do you know what may have brought him to this place or what may have happened leading up to it?

The answer is that, although this photo tells a story, it is merely a snapshot in time.


Now, watch the video below:

[via GIPHY]

What do you know now that the photo didn’t display?

We can now tell that he caught a fish, was going to net the fish and then tripped and netted his dog instead! We now know a much more detailed story and can better assess the events leading up to his fall and dog being netted.

Let’s apply this to collecting quality and safety data in healthcare.

When we do small, infrequent data collection, it gives us just a small amount of information, perhaps only pertinent to that date and time.

But conversely, when we collect data consistently over time, we are given a much more robust and less time frame-specific picture of what is really going on.

It allows us to understand the potential causative factors that contribute to the data and therefore allows a better baseline from which to launch performance improvement efforts.


A data “snapshot” can be very useful in particular for determining prevalence. graphic that reads: data

Prevalence studies are useful in determining how often a condition occurs.

For example, AHRQ recommends determining the prevalence of pressure ulcers and recommends examining that data over time to assess how it changes and comparing it to national benchmarks to see how your particular facility measures up.


video camcorder icon“Video” data is useful in a different way.

It can help determine what factors are contributing to the prevalence of a condition.

In the same example, AHRQ recommends assessing nursing practice by auditing chart documentation monthly and trending that data over time to evaluate whether or not appropriate assessments and risk scales were completed for pressure ulcers.


Once the factors that contribute to the prevalence are identified, the hospital can more easily address issues that are negatively impacting their prevalence rates and improve them.

patient safety data collection


See how Northern Westchester Hospital improved patient safety within one year:

Northern Westchester CAUTI Case Study


Previous Post: Taking the Huddle Challenge: How to Improve Patient Safety in 15 Minutes a Day

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