Privacy and Health Research. Research to Understand Utilization of Health Care


Many approaches are taken for studying how people avail themselves of health care, why they do or don't take various actions, and what factors relate to the behavior. In efforts to enhance women's health, for instance, records are accumulated on Pap smears, breast exams, mammographic screening, obstetric examinations during pregnancy, and countless other interactions with healthcare systems. These data can then be linked with other health data to ask evaluative questions about how well preventive actions or other interventions "work." (What was the women's subsequent health history? How predictive did the screening turn out to be? Could the techniques or frequency of the screening have been improved? What best-practice does it imply for other women?)49

Survey interviews are conducted to try to understand the attitudes that shape behavior (for example, to learn why people don't take prescribed medications faithfully). Health services research is performed on the influence of facility location, costs and cost-sharing, and countless other factors that influence use.

(49) For many illustrations of how analysis can inform health care policy and delivery see Roberta Wyn, E. Richard Brown, and Hongjian Yu, "Women's use of preventive health services," pp. 49–75, and other chapters of Marilyn M. Falik and Karen Scott Collins, editors, Women's Health: The Commonwealth Fund Survey (The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London, 1996).