Difference between Encounter, Episode and Appointment (Different Ids)

Hi all! :wave:

I’m trying to understand the difference between Encounter, Episode and Appointment (The different ids).

From the FHIR documentation: The primary difference between the EpisodeOfCare and the Encounter is that the Encounter records the details of an activity directly relating to the patient, while the EpisodeOfCare is the container that can link a series of Encounters together for problems/issues.

I’ve also read on multiple places that it is used interchangeably, and can be defined as Visit Code too. This mix up of definition is causing confusion.

Is my understanding correct that the flow would be that there is usually an Episode that is made up of multiple Encounters and that is made up of multiple Appointments? What would be the difference in definition with the three?

Thank you in advance! :slight_smile:

An appointment is a ‘booking’ for a particular visit. In the ideal situation, an Appointment will always result in an Encounter, but that’s not necessarily the case. If a system doesn’t treat the appointment and encounter as having distinct business identifiers, it’s fine to use the same identifier on both.

EpisodeOfCare is different - many systems won’t track episodes at all. Those that do use it to link a whole bunch of a records to a single condition occurrence. A common example would be a pregnancy - all observations captured, procedures performed, etc. would all be tied to that one pregnancy - independent of what ‘visit’, if any, the records were captured as part of.

Encounter, on the other hand, represents a single ‘visit’ between provider and patient. The granularity can vary though - a patient who visits a clinic and meets with three different providers might trigger one Encounter, 3 Encounters (one per provider) or 4 Encounters (one per provider and one overarching one).

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Thank you @lloyd! This is helpful.

When you say many systems won’t track episodes at all, are you referring to EPR systems?

Not specifically. More saying that if you look across the full set of systems that deal with encounters (hospitals, clinics, dental systems, physio systems, etc.), only a subset of those will care about/track episodes.

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