Background: there is increasing interest in combining qualitative and quantitative research methods to provide comprehensiveness and greater knowledge yield. Mixed methods are valuable in the development and evaluation of complex interventions. They are therefore particularly valuable in palliative care research where the majority of interventions are complex, and the identification of outcomes particularly challenging.
Aims: this paper aims to introduce the role of mixed methods in the development and evaluation of complex interventions in palliative care, and how they may be used in palliative care research.
Content: the paper defines mixed methods and outlines why and how mixed methods are used to develop and evaluate complex interventions, with a pragmatic focus on design and data collection issues and data analysis. Useful texts are signposted and illustrative examples provided of mixed method studies in palliative care, including a detailed worked example of the development and evaluation of a complex intervention in palliative care for breathlessness. Key challenges to conducting mixed methods in palliative care research are identified in relation to data collection, data integration in analysis, costs and dissemination and how these might be addressed.
Conclusions: the development and evaluation of complex interventions in palliative care benefit from the application of mixed methods. Mixed methods enable better understanding of whether and how an intervention works (or does not work) and inform the design of subsequent studies. However, they can be challenging: mixed method studies in palliative care will benefit from working with agreed protocols, multidisciplinary teams and engaging staff with appropriate skill sets.