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Qualitative Methods in Health Services Research

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On December 4, 1998, AHRQ's (formerly AHCPR) Center for Organization and Delivery Studies and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation held a conference, "Qualitative Methods in Health Services Research" in Rockville, MD. AHRQ and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation share the goal of advancing the field's understanding and use of qualitative methods in order to answer the most pressing health services research and policy questions.

Qualitative methods have received renewed attention as they are well-suited for addressing some of the most challenging theoretical and substantive problems, either exclusively or in conjunction with quantitative methods. Areas where qualitative methods can make a significant contribution include:

  • Developing and refining theory.
  • Describing the rapidly changing health care system and understanding the challenges it poses for key groups (e.g., patients, providers, payers, and policymakers).
  • Developing and testing new surveys and tools (e.g., consumer information).
  • Evaluating clinical and organizational interventions and new public policies and programs.

Almost 70 quantitative and qualitative researchers attended the day-long meeting which included the following sessions:

  • Qualitative Research: What Is It and Why Use It?, with Charles Ragin and Shoshana Sofaer presenting and Stephen Shortell serving as a discussant.
  • The Application of Qualitative Methods in Health Services Research: Highlights from Four Recent Studies, with Richard Frankel, Steven Garfinkel, Marsha Gold, and Stephen Zuckerman presenting and Robert Hurley serving as discussant.
  • Strategies for Enhancing the Quality of Qualitative Research, with Michael Quinn Patton, and Robert Yin presenting and Gloria Bazzoli and Martin Sanchez-Jankowski serving as discussants.
  • New Tools and Methods for Analyzing Qualitative Data, with Eben Weitzman and Charles Ragin presenting and Anne Barry Flood and Daniel Dohan serving as discussants.
  • Next Steps for the Field, moderated by Shoshana Sofaer.

A special supplement to the December 1999 issue of the journal Health Services Research (HSR) featured the papers written for the conference. Select Research Activities for a description of the journal supplement.

Current as of July 2000

The information on this page is archived and provided for reference purposes only.


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