Qualitative methods for assessing health care
Fitzpatrick R., Boulton M.
© 2004 selection and editorial matter Michael Bury and Jonathan Gabe. THE EVALUATION OF HEALTH care and efforts to maintain and improve quality in health care have very largely drawn on quantitative methods. Quantification has made possible precise expression of the extent to which interventions are efficient, effective, or appropriate and has allowed the use of statistical techniques to assess the significance of findings. For many questions, however, quantitative methods may be neither feasible nor desirable. Qualitative methods may be more appropriate when investigators are “opening up” a new field of study or are primarily concerned to identify and conceptualise salient issues. Various qualitative methods have been developed which potentially have an enormous role in assessing health care. This paper examines some of the more important forms that have been used in that assessment and outlines principles of good practice in the application of qualitative methodology. It is intended to encourage a wider use of qualitative methods in assessing health care and a greater appreciation of how much such methods have to offer.