Health Services Research (HSR) Methods
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Current and Past Initiatives on Data and Methods

A brief overview of major efforts to assess data and methods was compiled for the upcoming Health Services Researcher of 2020: A Summit on the Future of HSR Data and Methods, co-sponsored by the Commonwealth Fund and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. These efforts provide a high quality set of resources that may serve as background information for researchers. All of these initiatives focus only on assessing the current state of the field with respect to a specific method or particular topic at the point and time at which they were conducted or developed. None aim to address the data and methods that will be needed in the future.

Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) Effective Health Care Program
The Effective Health Care Program is dedicated to providing resources to produce high-quality research to inform someone who needs to make health care decisions. There have been three major products related to data and methods and comparative effectiveness research produced under this program. Including:

  • Registries for Evaluating Patient Outcomes: A User's Guide
    This government supported handbook helps researchers and others establish, manage, and analyze patient registries to evaluate the real-life impact of healthcare treatments and evaluate patient outcomes.
  • Comparative Effectiveness Reviews Guides
    This guide provides methodological guidance to Evidence-based Practice Centers (EPCs) conducting comparative effectiveness reviews (CERs). It describes recommended approaches for addressing difficult, frequently encountered methodological issues. It informs the public of standards for conducting CERs. Finally, it identifies areas of methodological controversy for which, at present, no standard can be recommended; these will be addressed in future work by EPCs, in updates to this guide, or by others. This guide has not yet been published.
  • Emerging Methods in Comparative Effectiveness and Safety: Medical Care Supplement
    This supplement is comprised of twenty-four papers on methods for comparative effectiveness. Methods included in the papers include comparison of design-delayed and rigorous randomized trials, design of cluster randomized trials, propensity score matching, inverse probability treatment weighting, instrument validation - strategies for addressing unobserved confounders, and surveillance systems for early detection of adverse events.
  • Symposium on Research Methods for Clinical and Comparative Effectiveness Studies – Part II: Medical Care Supplement
    This supplement is comprised of twenty-three papers on methods for comparative effectiveness studies from the symposium proceedings, published in the June 2010 issue of the journal Medical Care. The symposium emphasized methods to enhance the inclusion of heterogeneous populations, and methods to implement longitudinal investigations that capture outcomes. From these themes, abstracts were chosen for four major content areas, including study design, data collection, statistics and analytic methods, and policy issues and applications.

Conference on Health Survey Research Methods (CHSRM)
Since 1975, CHSRM has been bringing together researchers from various disciplines who are at the forefront of survey methods research, who are responsible for major health surveys, and who use survey data to develop health policy. In March 2007, the Ninth Conference on Health Survey Research Methods was held at the University of Chicago. This meeting was by invitation only and covered the following topics:

  • The Relationship Between Survey Participants & Survey Researchers
  • Challenges of Collecting Survey-Based Biomarker & Genetic Data
  • Emergency Preparedness & Surveillance
  • Tradeoffs in Health Survey Design
  • Measurement Error & Health Disparities

Proceedings from this meeting are not yet available. Papers from the last three conferences are available through the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) Web site (scroll down to Health Survey Research Methods).

Federal Health Data: National and State Level Uses and Issues - Special Section in HSR
This special section reviews current national surveys being used to guide coverage and access policy. It was published in 2006 and co-sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).  It includes a special commentary from AcademyHealth, How to Improve Federal Health Data for Coverage Access, and State-Specific Needs, along with three commissioned papers that provide:

  • An overview of efforts to coordinate federal data collection;
  • A review and comparison of federal data sets for tracking health insurance and access; and
  • Provides examples of estimating state-level insurance coverage with state and federal datasets.

Methods for Measuring Cancer Disparities: Using Data Relevant to Healthy People 2010
This report provides best practices for reporting data to measure health disparities. It was written in 2005 under contract from the Surveillance Research Program (SRP) and the Applied Research Program (ARP) of the Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences of the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Additional support was provided by the Office of Disease Prevention in the Office of the Director at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). It represents the interests of these organizations in health disparities related to cancer, quantitative assessment and monitoring of these disparities, and interventions to remove them.

OBSSR/NERI Online Methods Textbook
The Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR) has funded the New England Research Institutes (NERI) to create an online methods textbook that will cover a range of methodological issues for behavioral and social science research. The textbook is currently under development.

Qualitative Methods in Health Services Research: A Special Supplement to HSR

This special issue is composed of eight papers that address case studies and rationale for qualitative research in health services research. The papers were presented at an vitational conference held in December 1998 that was co-sponsored by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) and teh Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). The papers focused on some of the following topics:

  • Review of research perspectives, paradigms, and methods;
  • Best practices, including triangulation and approaches to avoid appearance of bias;
  • An overview of Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA), a new strategy designed specifically to study outcomes that result from multiple combinations of conditions; and
  • An overview of software for analyzing qualitative data.