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

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Introduction to Health Services Research : A Self-Study Course

Module 1: What is Health Services Research (HSR)? (Page 5 of 11)

What IS Health Services Research?

"The goal of health services research (HSR) is to provide information that will eventually lead to improvements in the health of the citizenry." (IOM, 1991).

Researchers, the public, payers, and politicians ask questions that shape public policy. These questions change over time. During the 1960s and 1970s, cost was not a major feature of health services research. Extending access to underserved areas was a priority and, out of that concern, developed the use of physician assistants and nurse practitioners.

The work of John Wennberg and his colleagues describing geographic variations in the utilization of medical technology has influenced research on clinical and patient decision-making (Wennberg, 1996). The clinical practice guideline movement derives, in part, from these findings in an attempt to document and recommend the best clinical practices available.

Disciplines Involved in Health Services Research

Health Services research is a field composed of many disciplines:

  • Medicine
  • Biostatistics
  • Sociology
  • Economics
  • Political Science
  • Operations Research
  • Nursing
  • Epidemiology
  • Law
  • Psychology
  • Social Work
  • Management
  • Others

Stakeholders

Those with a keen interest in health services research include:

  • Clinicians
  • Social and Behavioral Scientists
  • Managers
  • Lawyers
  • Policy Makers
  • Payors (including insurance companies)
  • Private and Public Organizations; and
  • Consumers

Discussion Questions

  1. How important is health services research in shaping public policy in the United States? Similarly, does public policy shape health services research? How do you know?
  2. Discuss how the clinical practice guideline movement has changed how you provide information to colleagues and/or to library users.
  3. How would you go about locating those journal articles that appeared in Index Medicus but have not yet been put into Medline because they are pre-Medline? Why is knowing about pre-Medline articles important to the quality of your search for information?
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