Standardization vs Customization: Finding the Right Balance

Ann Fam Med. 2021 Mar-Apr;19(2):171-177. doi: 10.1370/afm.2654.


There is an inherent tension between standardization and customization of care delivery processes. The challenge for health care systems is to achieve the right balance. At its best, standardized work can create efficiencies that generate the additional time needed for personalized care. Similarly, at its best, customization allows the people within a system to accommodate the needs, preferences, and circumstances of the unique individuals and local communities they serve. We provide examples and offer principles to decide when standardization offers the most successful path and when customization may be preferred. We believe that, in sum, the balance has shifted too far toward standardization and that a rebalancing toward customization will benefit patients, clinicians, and the health care system.

Keywords: administrative burden; burnout; clinician-patient communication/relationship; customization; leadership; primary care issues; quality measurement; standardization; teamwork; transactional.

MeSH terms

  • Delivery of Health Care / standards*
  • Humans
  • Precision Medicine / methods*
  • Quality of Health Care
  • Reference Standards