Health Services Research in 2020

Data and Methods Needs for the Future

This article introduces a special issue of Health Services Research that is focused on the health care data issues and infrastructure discussed at the 2009 AcademyHealth Summit on Health Services Research. The field of health services research is expected to expand rapidly with the implementation of health care reform and growth of new health information technology. The author provides a review of the health services research field, describes recent changes to the data environment and discusses options to increase the accessibility and quality of health services data.

Key Findings:

  • Health care data is increasingly generated by new and sophisticated technologies, some completely out of the traditional domain of health research. Health care researchers face a number of adjustments to utilize these new data sources.
  • A governmental or public entity providing data stewardship would be a key mechanism to ensure timely access to health care data. A trusted data consolidator such as a data enclave would facilitate data privacy through technological, statistical and legal standards.
  • Federal data sets should be more accessible and more standardized to facilitate cross-database research.
  • Health services research should develop more robust ties to health care delivery systems in order to better utilize data generated from these systems.

The field of health services research faces rapid changes and an abundance of new sources of data to study. This paper and the entire special issue of Health Services Research outline issues faced by the field and techniques to improve the body of knowledge generated by health services research.

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