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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 4: Search the Literature of HSR: Databases (Page 26 of 29)

Key Journals in Health Services Research

Knowing which journals are read by health services researchers is important to anyone working with those researchers. Knowing what has been published means being better able to alert researchers to articles they may have missed or that are worth reading, especially from related disciplines.

Like the field, many health services journals are multidisciplinary and address the needs of multiple communities of practice within the discipline of health services.

Many health services journals are multidisciplinary and address the needs of multiple communities of practice within the discipline of health services.

To keep up with what is happening in the field it is important to spend time with the tables of content from these key journals. Over time you will develop a good sense of which journals and authors are most important in the field and will be able to identify which articles are likely to appear often in bibliographies and in research because of their quality and relevance to the field. Be put on the list to receive tables of content from the publishers' alerting services.

When you visit the publisher's site for a particular journal, look for a search engine that will enable you to search for articles in the journal. Many publishers have added that feature to their Web sites, although not all. Most publishers will provide the table of contents for each issue and an abstract. A few have made full text access to selected articles available for online reading. This varies with the publisher.

The list of journals that follows is not intended to be inclusive. It lists titles that are are among the most heavily cited and published in by health services researchers . Brief descriptions of why these journals are useful to health services researchers appear under each title along with three examples of article titles to give you a flavor of what each journal publishes. The Enrichment Section for this module lists several relatively recent online health services journals that might be useful to know about.

Information About Selected Key Journals

eGEMS (EDM Forum)

eGEMS is a peer-reviewed, open access journal designed to accelerate research and quality improvement using electronic health data.

Frontiers of Health Services Management (Health Administration Press)

Those researchers interested in how health systems work and in the managers / executives who direct health systems will find articles in this journal of interest. It is also of interest to librarians because it often contains articles that discuss the latest trends in management and health systems. It began publishing in September 1984 with articles on Commercialization of Healthcare, Innovative Structures for Medical Staff Organization and Competitive Strategies in California. Today's articles of interest may include:

  • consumer's impact on health care delivery
  • governance
  • quality

Health Affairs: The Policy Journal of the Health Sphere (Project Hope)

Health Affairs" is the leading journal of health policy thought and research." It is "is a multidisciplinary, peer-reviewed journal dedicated to the serious exploration of major domestic and international health policy issues." Any topic of interest to researchers and policy analysts will have been discussed in this journal in the articles section. Also important is the section titled, "Datawatch" for its current statistics on current topics of interest. This is a must-read journal. Look for articles on such topics as

  • racial and ethnic disparities
  • improving care for seniors
  • prescription drug benefits

It was first published in 1981 with articles on topics such as Medicare vouchers, controlling health care costs and transforming the health care system.

Look for a blog with interesting discussions of current health topics by staff and by contributors and email alerts for announcements, tables of content and topics-specific alerts. As well as alerts, you can subscribe to an RSS feed that offers headlines of what's newly published in Health Affairs.

Health Care Financing Review (CMS)

The Review "highlights the results of policy-relevant research and provides a forum for a broad range of viewpoints to stimulate discussion among a diverse audience that includes policymakers, planners, administrators, insurers, researchers, and health care providers. The Review is published quarterly, with an additional statistical supplement issue every year." The first issue appeared in 1987. While the articles in HCFR are important, the yearly statistical supplement is what is the most critical to have access to. In it are found Medicare and Medicaid statistics, statistics on relevant topics and national statistics that are often quoted.

  • Provider Opt-Out Under Medicare
  • High-Risk Pools for Uninsurable Individuals
  • Access to Care for Disabled Children Under Medicaid

Health Services and Outcomes Research Methodology (Springer)

Health Services and Outcomes Research Methodology "publishes, Research papers on quantitative methods; Case Studies setting out substantial applications of quantitative methodology in health services and outcomes research; Review Articles, synthesizing and popularizing methodologic developments; Tutorials; Articles on computational issues and software reviews; Book reviews and notices. Special issues will be devoted to papers presented in important workshops and conferences." Worth examining for the quantitative methods described by the researchers who publish in this journal. Examples of articles include

  • demand for specialty care in HMOs
  • randomized controlled trials to improve asthma care for children
  • testing and correcting for non-random selection bias due to censoring

First published in 2000 with articles on evaluating provider group interventions and analytic methods for constructing cross-sectional profiles of health care providers.

HSR: Health Services Research (official journal of AcademyHealth)

This journal is co-edited by two luminaries in health services research, Harold S. Luft, Ph.D. and Ann Barry Flood, Ph.D. Important journals such as Health Services Research publish key articles in health services research. In addition HSR often publishes special supplementary issues on important topics. These may be papers from recent conferences or, most recently, papers published on the Web and republished in paper versions. Special issues are also published regularly. Recent article titles examine

  • the impact of diabetes on workforce participation
  • the effect of HMO market share on cancer screening
  • the health of vulnerable populations

The journal began in 1966.

Look for email alerts and RSS feeds on their Web site.

Inquiry: The Journal of Health Care Organization, Provision, and Financing (Excellus Health Plan, Inc.)

Inquiry, begun in 1963, "seeks to contribute to the continued improvement in the nation's health care system by providing a thoughtful forum for the communication and discussion of relevant public policy issues, innovative concepts, and original research and demonstration in the areas of health care organization, provision, and financing." For those interested in policy, insurance and financing issues, this is the key journal to turn to. Recent articles deal with

  • uncompensated care of the uninsured
  • the Balanced Budget Act of 1997
  • health plan disenrollment

Sign up for Inquiry's free email alert and RSS feeds.

International Journal for Quality in Health Care (Oxford University Press)

The International Journal for Quality in Health Care "makes activities and research related to quality and safety in health care available to a worldwide readership. The Journal publishes papers in all disciplines related to the quality and safety of health care, including health services research, health care evaluation, technology assessment, health economics, utilization review, cost containment and nursing care research, as well as clinical research related to quality of care." Recent articles of interest to researchers include

  • universal patient safety taxonomy
  • frequency of patient–physician contact
  • identification of barriers to quality improvement

Formerly Quality Assurance in Health Care, this journal changed to the current title with volume 6, 1994.

Additional features include

International Journal of Health Services (Baywood Publishing)

The Journal "contains articles on health and social policy, political economy and sociology, history and philosophy, ethics and law in the areas of health and health care. The Journal provides analysis of developments in the health and social sectors of every area of the world, including relevant scholarly articles, position papers, and stimulating debates about the most controversial issues of the day. It is of interest to health professionals and social scientists interested in the many different facets of health, disease, and health care." This journal is especially interesting to those doing international health and comparative research. Examine this journal for articles on

  • the concentration of U.S. hospitals and its implications for a national health program
  • pharmaceutical research and development
  • neglected veterans

The journal was first published in 1971.

Services include a link to an rss feed and an alerting service. All services require free registration.

International Journal of Technology Assessment in Health Care (IJTAHC) (Cambridge University Press)

The official journal of Health Technology Assessment International (ITAi) "is the International Journal of Technology Assessment in Health Care (IJTAHC); it is published quarterly by Cambridge University Press. IJTAHC " serves as a forum for the wide range of professionals interested in the assessment of medical technology, its consequences for patients and its impact on society. It covers the generation, evaluation, diffusion and use of health care technology. In addition to general essays and research notes, regular columns on technology assessment reports and thematic sections are published." Recently published articles include

  • Cost-effectiveness of new drugs
  • Quality appraisal of pediatric health economic evaluations
  • Decisions to adopt new technologies at the hospital level

The first issue of this journal appeared in 1985.

A free alerting service is available after free registration for tables of content; saved searches and pay-per-view can also be used after registration.

JAMA - Journal of the American Medical Association

Although it is primarily a general medical journal, nevertheless, JAMA publishes some of the key (and very heavily cited) articles in health services research. It is worth examining each week for key articles. Many of the clinical articles have a direct impact on how health care and services are provided. Health services research articles of recent interest include

  • race, BMD, and risk of onspinal fractures
  • patient requests for direct-to-consumer advertised pharmaceuticals
  • HIPAA and Patient Care

This journal has had a long history; it began in 1883 under the title Journal of the American Medical Association.

Services include:

  • email alerts for tables of content, article citation alerts, search alerts, topic collection alerts and for collections alerts for the various Archives collections. Free registration is required.
  • JAMA Multimedia Commentary from authors and editors
  • RSS Feeds for headlines and article summaries

Journal of Ambulatory Care Management (Lippincott Williams & Wilkins)

The Journal of Ambulatory Care Management is "a peer-reviewed journal that provides timely, applied information on the most important developments and issues in ambulatory care management." This journal is useful for tracking changes in the ambulatory care portion of the health care system. Most issues cover a particular topic such as marketing in ambulatory care, legal issues, physician productivity, joint ventures and others that have an impact on the health care system. Health services researchers may be interested in these articles among many:

  • impact of conflict on children
  • increasing access to care via tele-health
  • environmental risk factors for asthma emergency care

The journal started in 1978.

Sign up for email alerts on all Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins journals by filling in your preferred email address in the box on the left navigation bar.

Journal of Health Care Finance

This journal looks at issues of health care finance, productivity and its improvement, alternative delivery systems, employee benefit cost-containment, joint ventures, and similar topics related to cost. Each issue targets a key area of health care finance.

  • evolution of new business in health care
  • the business case for hospital information systems
  • debt financing and not-for-profit hospitals

Formerly known as Topics in Health Care Financing, this journal started publication in 1974.

No alerting service is currently available.

Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law (Duke University Press)

Another important journal dealing with issues of policy and law, the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law focuses on the "initiation, formulation, and implementation of health policy and analyzes the relations between government and health--past, present, and future". Comparative health system issues, and a cross-section of articles on issues of importance in health policy are published in 6 annual issues.

  • European health systems reforms
  • mental competence and end-of-life decision making
  • insurance coverage and the states

First issued in the spring of 1976 by Duke University Press.

Sign up for Duke University Press's opt-in email notification list serv called Email Alerts and receive news about their latest books, journal special issues, award-winning publications, and other news from the Press. Updates are quarterly.

Journal of Health Services Research and Policy (Royal Society of Medicine Press)

A fairly recent newcomer to the health services research field (1996+), the Journal "includes scientific research from a wide variety of disciplines, both qualitative and quantitative, and rigorous policy analysis. This multidisciplinary approach assures you of both a challenging read and a greater understanding. The journal provides a unique forum for current scientific and policy debates, including key methodological issues." Useful for its international view of health services research and policy issues.

  • health system report cards and patient decision making
  • effect of the hospital nursing environment on patient mortality
  • changing patterns in general practice

Sign up for an email alert by registering online. An rss feed is also available.

Medical Care (official journal of the Medical Care Section of the American Public Health Association; publisher: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins)

Medical Care, started in 1963, is "devoted to all aspects of the administration and delivery of healthcare. This scholarly journal publishes original, peer-reviewed papers documenting the most current developments in the rapidly changing field of healthcare. This timely journal reports on the findings of original investigations into issues related to the research, planning, organization, financing, provision, and evaluation of health services." Supplementary issues on specialized topics are produced with each volume. These supplements are quite valuable sources of information on the topic covered in that issue. Examples include:

  • physician compliance with treatment guidelines for breast cancer
  • economic evaluation of four treatments for low-back pain
  • increasing response rates in a survey

Sign up for an email alert by registering at the Medical Care Web site.

Medical Care Research and Review (formerly Medical Care Review) (SAGE Publications)

For over 60 years, Medical Care Research and Review (formerly Medical Care Review) "has been a pioneering force in the area of health services research. During that time, the journal evolved from monthly abstracts to a well-respected journal carrying critical reviews of literature on organizational structure, economics, and the financing of health and medical care systems. Today, the journal's focus has expanded to reflect the growth of the field and the increasing importance of health services research..." The journal "includes original empirical and theoretical research and trends as well as the in-depth review articles for which the journal is known. Each issue now includes empirical research studies that provide policy makers with current information to make informed policy decisions, as well as to identify health care trends through the analysis of previously unpublished data." Look for articles on

  • economic issues in financing health care
  • physician/hospital relationships and organizational strategies
  • political issues in health care

Originally published under the name Public Health Economics and Medical Care Abstracts (1944), this journal has changed its name twice more, first to Medical Care Review (1967) and later on Medical Care Research and Review (1995).

Register for SAGE Journal email alerts and My Favorite Journal service.

Milbank Quarterly (Milbank Memorial Fund and Blackwell Publishers)

Published for more than 80 years, the Milbank Quarterly "features peer-reviewed original research, policy review, and analysis, as well as commentary from academics, clinicians, and policymakers. Its multidisciplinary approach and commitment to applying the best empirical research to practical policymaking offers in-depth assessments of the social, legal, and ethical dimensions of health care policy." Look for articles dealing with

  • diffusion of innovations in service organizations
  • income inequality and population health
  • priority setting for health services research

This publication has changed its name several times since its inception. The Milbank Memorial Fund Quarterly Bulletin began in 1923 and later changed its name to Milbank Memorial Fund Quarterly in 1934. In 1973 it changed its name again to Milbank Memorial Fund Quarterly. Health and Society. Then in 1986 it shortened the name to The Milbank Quarterly.

No alerting service is available at this time.

New England Journal of Medicine (Massachusetts Medical Society)

New England Journal of Medicine publishes some of the key (and heavily cited) articles in health services research. Although it publishes mainly clinical research it is worth reviewing for the health services editorials and articles. Look for articles on

  • end of life issues
  • global health issues: obesity and underweight
  • future of specialty hospitals

Published by the Massachusetts Medical Society starting in 1828 under the name Boston Medical and Surgical Journal. It becomes the New England Journal of Medicine in 1928.

Alerting services offered include:

Social Science and Medicine (Elsevier)

Social Science and Medicine publishes "original research reports and critical or analytical reviews in any area of theory, policy or research relevant to health and illness." The audience for this journal includes social scientists, health practitioners and policy makers. It has an impact factor of 1.983. Medical sociologists and other social scientists, policy analysts and health services researchers find this journal useful for its examination of physical and mental health, and health care practice, policy and organization. Librarians will find reviewing the issue tables of content for articles of interest to their social scientist clientele. Reviewing the tables of content is also useful in expanding their knowledge of the important articles in the fields covered in the journal. Examine articles on

  • the role of psychosocial factors in explaining socio-economic differences in mobility decline
  • primary care, race, and mortality
  • access, utilization, quality, and effective coverage

Social Science and Medicine started in 1967 under this name. It split into several sections in 1978 and then changed back in 1982.

An alerting service offers updates by subject areas and authors.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why is it critical for researchers and librarians to spend time examining the tables of content of key health services journals when they come across their desks?
  2. Why is it efficient to have tables of content emailed to you from the publisher?
  3. If you had to select one journal of the journals listed above to take with you on a trip, which one would you take? Why?
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