Background: This is the second part of a 3-part discussion paper by the working group on "Qualitative Methods" in the German network of health services research (DNVF) that shall contribute to the development of a memorandum concerning qualitative health services research. It aims to depict the different types of qualitative research that are conducted in health services research in Germany. In addition, the authors present a specific set of qualitative data collection and analysis tools to demonstrate the potential of qualitative research for health services research. QUALITATIVE RESEARCH IN HEALTH SERVICES RESEARCH - AN OVERVIEW: To give an overview of the types of qualitative research conducted in German health services research, the abstracts of the 8th German Conference on Health Services Research were filtered to identify qualitative or mixed-methods studies. These were then analysed by looking at the context which was studied, who was studied, the aims of the studies, and what type of methods were used. Those methods that were mentioned most often for data collection and analysis are described in detail. QUALITATIVE RESEARCH AT THE CONFERENCE FOR HEALTH SERVICES RESEARCH 2009: Approximately a fifth of all abstracts (n=74) had a qualitative (n=47) or a mixed-methods approach combining quantitative and qualitative methods (n=27). Research aims included needs assessment (41%), survey development (36%), evaluation (22%), and theorizing (1%). Data collection mostly consisted of one-on-one interviews (n=45) and group discussions (n=29). Qualitative content analysis was named in 35 abstracts, 30 abstracts did not reference their method of analysis. In addition to a quantitative summary of the abstract findings, the diversity of fields addressed by qualitative methods is highlighted.
Conclusion: Although drawing conclusions on the use of qualitative methods in German health services research from the analysis of conference abstracts is not possible, the overview we present demonstrates the diversity of methods used for data collection and analysis and showed that a few select methods are extensively used. One of the tasks a memorandum of qualitative health services research should accomplish is to highlight underutilized research methods, which may help to develop the potential of qualitative methodology in German health services research.
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