Common methodological terms in health services research and their synonyms [correction of symptoms].
OBJECTIVE: Health services researchers use methods and terminology from a variety of disciplines to understand individual and organizational behavior related to health, health care, and health insurance. Although this diversity benefits the process of research, the resulting differences in terminology can occasionally lead to confusion among even the most experienced researchers. The purpose of this paper is to clarify different methodological terms used to represent common study designs and statistical concepts in health services research. METHOD: Faculty from the departments of Health Services, Biostatistics and Epidemiology at the University of Washington were asked to provide a list of terms commonly used in health services research that had one or more methodological terms with the same or similar meaning. Consistent with the Delphi method, the initial list was then circulated to internal and external methodologists and additional terms were added for completeness. Terms related to study designs, equation specification, and estimation problems with synonymous terminology were included. RESULTS: A "methodological thesaurus" is developed and described in this paper. Many terms were found which described essentially identical concepts. In other cases, terms had slight but important differences in meaning across disciplines, leading to potential confusion in their use. CONCLUSION: In light of these differences in terminology, it is not surprising that health services researchers with a particular disciplinary orientation currently find literature within their own discipline entirely readable and literature from another discipline considerably less accessible. The "methodological thesaurus" presented in this paper should be of value to health services researchers who are interested in exploring the full array of methods developed to address a particular problem. Teachers and students of health services research should also find this article of use in relating similar concepts across disciplines in quantitative health services research publications.
Maciejewski, ML; Diehr, P; Smith, MA; Hebert, P
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