Using Grounded Theory Method to Capture and Analyze Health Care Experiences

Health Serv Res. 2015 Aug;50(4):1195-210. doi: 10.1111/1475-6773.12275. Epub 2014 Dec 18.


Objective: Grounded theory (GT) is an established qualitative research method, but few papers have encapsulated the benefits, limits, and basic tenets of doing GT research on user and provider experiences of health care services. GT can be used to guide the entire study method, or it can be applied at the data analysis stage only.

Methods: We summarize key components of GT and common GT procedures used by qualitative researchers in health care research. We draw on our experience of conducting a GT study on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis patients' experiences of health care services.

Findings: We discuss why some approaches in GT research may work better than others, particularly when the focus of study is hard-to-reach population groups. We highlight the flexibility of procedures in GT to build theory about how people engage with health care services.

Conclusion: GT enables researchers to capture and understand health care experiences. GT methods are particularly valuable when the topic of interest has not previously been studied. GT can be applied to bring structure and rigor to the analysis of qualitative data.

Keywords: Grounded theory; health care experiences; qualitative interviews; qualitative research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Grounded Theory*
  • Health Services Research / methods*
  • Humans
  • Patient Satisfaction*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Research Design*