One of the purposes of patient-generated health data (PGHD) is to help providers know their patients better than they would have otherwise if they relied only on data captured by providers. In my experience, I appreciate doctors who do more physical exams and tests but know more about me that could help them personalize their treatment. As Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote in The King and I, “Getting to know you, getting to know all about you…”
While a patient-provider relationship is special and not necessarily deeply personal, think about how people get to know each other in general. They talk! In ways that can’t be predefined, prescribed, or pigeonholed. Sure there are facts such as your birthday or address. But the vast majority of emotion, experience, and aspirations are richly expressed through natural language. Would you want to get to know someone by filling out structured forms with multiple-choice questions?! So in response to the blog question “does all PGHD for care management need to be in a structured form?” I’d answer a resounding “no!” As one working in healthcare standards, I understand and fully support the need for structured data in EHRs, for interoperability, analytics, decision support, quality measures, etc. But even if we could magically get all PGHD structured, standardized, tagged, and automatically imported into EHRs, that wouldn’t necessarily make things great. Structured data has precision, but very little nuance. Very few patients think or communicate via structure, and no amount of standards or government regulation will turn patients into health informaticists.