Health services research (HSR) is
|“||the study of the effects of using different modes of organization, delivery and financing for health care services.||”|
As an applied field of study, HSR is closely related to non-research investigations that are directed toward assessing and improving the quality of operations in healthcare organizations. Indeed, HSR and health care operations form two ends of a continuous spectrum. Some HSR projects are clear examples of research; applying scientific methods to test hypotheses and produce new, generalizable knowledge.
The benefits to society of HSR studies include increased understanding of the results of policy changes and other systemic effects of health care delivery systems. The major risks to subjects in HSR are not physical risks, such as unknown side effects of new drugs or invasive medical procedures, but psychosocial and financial risks resulting from improper disclosure of personally identifiable health information from the databases. That is, the potential for breaches of confidentiality in handling private and identifiable health information. Examples of the kinds of psychosocial or financial risks that may occur include potential denial of health insurance coverage, difficulty obtaining employment, embarrassment, loss of reputation, legal liability, or anxiety about what the recipient of an unauthorized disclosure of information might do with it.