JOURNAL ARTICLE

Mixed methods in pre-hospital research: understanding complex clinical problems

Gregory Adam Whitley, Scott Munro, Pippa Hemingway, Graham Richard Law, Aloysius Niroshan Siriwardena, Debbie Cooke, Tom Quinn
British paramedic journal 2020 December 1, 5 (3): 44-51
33456396
Healthcare is becoming increasingly complex. The pre-hospital setting is no exception, especially when considering the unpredictable environment. To address complex clinical problems and improve quality of care for patients, researchers need to use innovative methods to create the necessary depth and breadth of knowledge. Quantitative approaches such as randomised controlled trials and observational (e.g. cross-sectional, case control, cohort) methods, along with qualitative approaches including interviews, focus groups and ethnography, have traditionally been used independently to gain understanding of clinical problems and how to address these. Both approaches, however, have drawbacks: quantitative methods focus on objective, numerical data and provide limited understanding of context, whereas qualitative methods explore more subjective aspects and provide perspective, but can be harder to demonstrate rigour. We argue that mixed methods research, where quantitative and qualitative methods are integrated, is an ideal solution to comprehensively understand complex clinical problems in the pre-hospital setting. The aim of this article is to discuss mixed methods in the field of pre-hospital research, highlight its strengths and limitations and provide examples. This article is tailored to clinicians and early career researchers and covers the basic aspects of mixed methods research. We conclude that mixed methods is a useful research design to help develop our understanding of complex clinical problems in the pre-hospital setting.

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