Health services research: why and how?
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionCiba Foundation symposium 1976 (44):151-67
It is useful to divide medical research into three areas: biomedical, clinical, and health services research. The areas partly overlap, and health services research is also related to social services research. Research is carried out to solve problems and is an instrument for change. Health services research has developed over the last ten years in response to increasing problems in many health services. Superficially, these problems are caused by insufficient resources, but no service can hope to pay its way out of them. Some may be fairly accurately investigated, like need, demand, and utilization of care. Others are more complicated, e.g. evaluation of care, defining standards, and cost--benefit analyses. A few deal with fundamental values, like quality of life and responsibility of individuals and societies. So far, health services research has led to greater emphasis on primary care, but it is fair to say that it has not managed to infiltrate the service and influence people's attitudes and ambitions. In the future, one must bring health services research inside the service and involve the professionals more deeply. One must support prevention studies, attack the ethical and clinical problems related to quality of life, study the potential of non-professional support in the community, and promote rational attitudes among professions, patients, people and politicians. The task is never-ending and health services research, therefore, must be part of the programme of all medical schools.