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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 6 of 11)

Health Services Research, continued...

As you will read in the history module and find in the five cases, health services research attempts to answer people's questions about the best medical treatment or preventive course of action, quality of a health care plan or a doctor's practice, efficient delivery of services to all populations, and the cost exacted to provide them. During this time of intense change in health care services, health services research provides documentation and evaluation of the effects of such change (IOM, 1995).

Institute of Medicine Report Identifies Critical Health Services Issues

The Institute of Medicine identified the major issues that health services researchers continue to address today. This list captures the critical issues health professionals and the public face as corporate and governmental bodies transform health services and institutions.

  • Organization and financing of health services. HSR can evaluate the effects of health insurance changes and market-driven cost containment measures.
  • Access to health care. HSR can document the effects of insurance coverage, provider reimbursement rates, consumer socioeconomic characteristics, and other variables on access as well as the impact of access on health status.
  • Practitioner, patient, and consumer behavior. HSR can identify strategies to enable useful health behaviors regarding treatment, prevention, and cost-effective utilization of services.
  • Quality of care. HSR can measure indicators of quality of care and evaluate the performance of providers and clinicians under managed care, including the adjustment of data for clinicians who treat sicker patients.
  • Clinical evaluation and outcomes research. HSR can illuminate the benefits and risks of preventive, diagnostic, and treatment procedures so clinicians and providers can make realistic decisions.
  • Informatics and clinical decision-making. HSR can help disseminate and "package" information to facilitate decision-making.
  • Health professions work force. HSR can study the current and future needs for health personnel and services (IOM, 1995).

Staffing, quality assessment, utilization, technology assessment, specialty areas (including nursing, mental health, pharmacy and dental) and the social and behavioral aspects of the discipline are also issues that are considered important in the field.

Discussion Questions

  1. If you search for articles in the databases for your own use or for clients, in how many of the seven areas listed above have you had to do searches? The IOM report is already ten years old. What would you add to the list above, if anything? Would you remove anything? Where might you go to see if any recent IOM reports deal with current concerns/issues in health services?
  2. Is the health care field changing as rapidly now as it was in 1995? How do you know? Is it important to keep up with the changes in the health care field, if any? How do you keep up with what is happening in the health care field?
  3. Do you think it is strange that IOM included informatics and clinical decision making in the list of major identified issues? What is currently happening in informatics and clinical decision making? Discuss the implications for your work, for patient care, for physicians and for health services researchers.
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