Credibility of Research Hinges on Its Independence from the Health Care System

Development of a strategy to strengthen the field of health care research

Between 1999 and 2000, the Association for Health Services Research (AHSR), (now Academy Health) Washington, carried out a project designed to strengthen support for health services research — a field that has helped to identify solutions to problems of cost, quality, and access in the health care delivery system.

A consulting group hired by AHSR, Public Opinion Strategies of Alexandria, Va. conducted focus groups, telephone interviews, and a national survey. They interviewed consumers, health care purchasers, registered voters and Washington health are opinion leaders.

Key Findings

Among the key findings from the consumer focus groups:

  • The field of health services research should position itself as independent of the health care delivery system, and as a neutral provider of new knowledge to the medical community and patients.

Health care purchasers said the field of health services research must:

  • Explain what it does using "real world" examples.
  • Link itself to the pursuit of quality health care.

A national survey of registered voters found that:

  • Support for health services research increased when respondents learned more about what it was.

Interviews with Washington health care opinion leaders suggested that more funding for health services research could be gained if the field:

  • Concentrates on immediate rather than long-term needs.
  • Makes better efforts to increase press coverage and exposure to the general public.


The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) provided partial support for the project with a grant of $99,088 between April 1999 and January 2000.