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With this overview we would like to present to you some definitions of Health Services Research and at the same time indicate which prioritizations are contained and how they evolved over time.

Is there a definition that you feel is missing? Susanne Walter will gladly receive your suggestions.


Definitions in German-speaking regions

  • Health Services Research is an interdisciplinary research area which, beginning with the patient and population perspective and in the light of complex context conditions, investigates care structures und processes of health care, describes the outcome on the level of everyday care and evaluates complex interventions for improving care. (Pfaff et al., 11).
  • Health Services Research is the scientific investigation of the supply of individuals and the entire population with health relevant services and products under everyday conditions. For this purpose, Health Services Research analyzes how financing systems, social and individual factors, organizational structures and processes as well as health technologies influence the access of patients ans insurants to patient and health care as well as their outcome, quality and costs (Bundesärztekammer, 2).
  • Subject of Health Services Research is the health care and - within a narrow definition - medical care of our population, its planning, organization, regulation, evaluation and optimization (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, 6).

  • Health Services Research serves to provide orientation about quality, therapeutic safety, use and sustainability in health care (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung, 31).

  • In its methodology and approach, Health Services Research is characterized as follows:

    • Health Services Research provides answers to the question about the best possible organizational form of care. It investigates the connection between processes and resulting outcomes with reference to the healthcare system. This can e.g. generate findings that may affect the reimbursement system or demand planning.

    • Health Services Research also analyzes the complex correlation between applied resources and achieved therapeutic outcomes. This allows inferences to efficiency and effectiveness in health care, distributive justice and equitable access as well as patient safety and patient preferences.

    • Health Services Research addresses different target groups. It provides insight that is of service to the care of the population and concerns individuals or the society as a whole, the acting protagonists or the involved institutions. Outcomes in research may influences political processes as basis of decison-making and therewith the care structure in Germany (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung, 6).

Definitions in English-speaking regions

The Department of Health Services at the University of Washington put together the following overview of definitions of Health Services Research:

Health Services Research......

  • examines how people get access to health care, how much care costs, and what happens to patients as a result of this care. The main goals of health services research are to identify the most effective ways to organize, manage, finance, and deliver high quality care; reduce medical errors; and improve patient safety.

  • is the multidisciplinary field of scientific investigation that studies how social factors, financing systems, organizational structures and processes, health technologies, and personal behaviors affect access to health care, the quality and cost of health care, and ultimately our health and well-being. Its research domains are individuals, families, organizations, institutions, communities, and populations.

  • is a multidisciplinary field of inquiry, both basic and applied, that examines the use, costs, quality, accessibility, delivery, organization, financing, and outcomes of health care services to increase knowledge and understanding of the structure, processes, and effects of health services for individuals and populations.

  • is concerned with problems in the organization, staffing, financing, utilization, and evaluation of health services..[It] subsumes both medical care and patient care research. It could well be termed "socio-medical" research.

  • is a recognized, multidisciplinary field...[with a focus on certain generic issues, such as] the organization and financing of medical care, utilization patterns, patient and provider relations, social and behavioral epidemiology, health information systems, and monitoring and evaluation of health services.

  • is the integration of epidemiologic, sociological, economic, and other analytic sciences in the study of health services.

  • is inquiry to produce knowledge about the structure, processes, or effects of personal health services. A study is classified as health services research if it satisfies two criteria: it deals with some features of the structure, processes, or effects of personal health services; At least one of the features is related to a conceptual framework other than that of contemporary applied biomedical science.

  • is a field of inquiry that examines the roles of organization, finance, manpower, technology, and prevention in the provision of health care services, and their impact on utilization, cost, and quality of care. The field draws on many disciplines to address this breadth of research, including biostatistics, epidemiology, health economics, medicine, nursing, operations research, psychology, and medical sociology.

  • is a field of inquiry that examines the impact of the organization, financing, and management of health care services on the delivery, quality, cost, access to, and outcomes of such services.