Qualitative research has been increasingly receiving recognition and has been more widely used in healthcare research with cultural and social dimensions. Unlike quantitative research, which deductive in nature and often involves analysing phenomena in terms of frequencies and trends, qualitative research seeks to determine the meaning of a phenomenon through description.

The objective of qualitative research is to develop concepts that help in the understanding of natural phenomena with an emphasis on the experiences, meaning and views of the participant. Differences among qualitative researchers exist on matters of epistemology, ontology, methods of data collection and evaluation methods.

Why qualitative research is important in healthcare

Qualitative research has become more prominent in healthcare and medicine. Increasing numbers of reports from qualitative studies have started to appear in healthcare-related editorials such as the ‘Journal of General Internal Medicine’, the ‘British Medical Journal’ and the ‘Annals of Internal Medicine’, as well as other reputable journals.

However, physicians and other health services researchers may not be familiar with qualitative research and are unsure of how it would relate to their interests. Essentially, the evidence-based medicine movement has taught healthcare providers that health policy and clinical practice should be based on critical review on the best evidence available. In order to appreciate the evidence that is supplied by qualitative research, one must be able to address what are the goals of the qualitative research.

The principles of behavioural sciences and evidence-based medicine further suggested that one must be able to answer more specific questions in order to review any study critically. For instance, was they study appropriate to its goals? How well do they apply to one’s practice or circumstances? How valid are the results?

The role of evidence-based medicine

With Evidence-Based Medicine or EBM becoming the standard tool in clinical practice, it is important to note that these evidences are based on other countries and geographical locations and these often play an important role in the genetic differences of the test subjects.

Though these evidences are reliable, such differences may have different outcomes in the prevalence of the disease, the severity of its course and the response to treatment. It is therefore highly advisable for local researchers to conduct and publish research studies, clinical trials and case studies to provide the best applicable information and knowledge in their specific geography as these studies would help eliminate the factors that have the potential to affect diagnosis and treatment.

One important effect of conducting and publishing research studies would be the researcher’s contribution to the reservoir of knowledge for that geographical location. As that reservoir continues to grow, the patient within that geography would then receive the quality of healthcare that patient deserves as the test subjects studied would have similar genetics as that of the patient, therefore having similar effects in the diagnosis, treatment and management. MIMS

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