Health services research

Health services research focuses on everyday medical care in order to optimize the treatment of patients. It also identifies over- or under-provision of care as well as incorrect care so that only the best possible methods of treatment are used.

Among other things, health care research develops and tests new approaches to nursing care. © Thinkstock

How can people with dementia be better cared for at home? How much of what doctors say to them do patients really understand? By investigating these questions, health services research provides information on which to base improvements that benefit patients. Health care research has gained significantly in importance in recent years, as shown by the increased variety of possible treatments. In addition to new medical drugs and technological progress in medicine, ergotherapy, physiotherapy and nursing care are all gaining in importance – particularly where chronic illnesses are concerned. The deciding factor for the success of a therapy is which medical, rehabilitative or nursing treatment works for patients. In order to be able to make a well-founded evaluation, intensive research is needed.

It is therefore important to know which measures are actually effective and which are not and where resources are possibly not being put to good use. Analyses of the over- or under-provision of care as well as incorrect care are just as necessary as the trialling of new health services approaches which take particular account of the patient’s perspective.

Investing in health services research

The Federal Research Ministry launched an action plan to boost health services research in December 2014. It is investing approximately 50 million euros between 2015 and 2018 under the plan.

Another aspect of health services research is looking at expenditure. Health economics focuses on the economic aspect of health care research. The Ministry has been providing funding to four centres for health economics research since 2012. These centres deal with economically relevant research questions at a high scientific level.

The Berlin Center of Health Economics Research (BerlinHECOR) is developing a comprehensive system for assessing the performance of the German health services system. The focus of the CINCH Health Economics Research Centre at the University of Duisburg-Essen is the analysis of competitive structures and their impacts on the quality of health care. The Hamburg Center for Health Economics (HCHE) develops clear methodological standards for health economics. The overall aim of the Center for Health Economics Research Hannover (CherH) is the economic analysis of health care structures.