Q methodology in health economics

J Health Serv Res Policy. 2006 Jan;11(1):38-45. doi: 10.1258/135581906775094217.

Abstract

The recognition that health economists need to understand the meaning of data if they are to adequately understand research findings which challenge conventional economic theory has led to the growth of qualitative modes of enquiry in health economics. The use of qualitative methods of exploration and description alongside quantitative techniques gives rise to a number of epistemological, ontological and methodological challenges: difficulties in accounting for subjectivity in choices, the need for rigour and transparency in method, and problems of disciplinary acceptability to health economists. Q methodology is introduced as a means of overcoming some of these challenges. We argue that Q offers a means of exploring subjectivity, beliefs and values while retaining the transparency, rigour and mathematical underpinnings of quantitative techniques. The various stages of Q methodological enquiry are outlined alongside potential areas of application in health economics, before discussing the strengths and limitations of the approach. We conclude that Q methodology is a useful addition to economists' methodological armoury and one that merits further consideration and evaluation in the study of health services.

MeSH terms

  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Economics, Medical*
  • Q-Sort*
  • Qualitative Research*
  • United Kingdom