Ethnographic methods for health care improvement


There is broad agreement that the NHS is in a severe funding crisis. This creates a mandate for healthcare research that provides evidence of how to overcome barriers to the implementation of effective, cost-saving interventions, particularly in the context of the substantial political and financial constraints currently at play in the healthcare system. There have been advances in ethnographic methods that support its use in health services research for improvement. Multi-site, collaborative and metamethod modalities of ethnography have evolved that suit the networked nature of modern healthcare, despite controversy within more ‘traditional’ ethnography literature. Similarly, rapid ethnographic approaches meet the needs of improvement activities to produce findings within short timeframes. Some authors have debated whether use of ethnographic methods have yet been optimally conceptualised for research for improvement, however.

This project is in response to the calls for more ethnographic methods in health services research for improvement, but cognisant of the debates and concerns that may constraint its utility in contributing to tangible change. We propose to conduct a scoping review of ethnographic literature, and engage with researchers in the field who are making methodological advances. The aim is to present a broad overview of the emerging field, clarify methodological debates and present exemplars of effective methodological strategies.

Principal Investogator: Naomi Fulop

Start date and duration: September 2016 – December 2018

Other project team members: Dr Georgia Black; Dr Lorelei Jones