Health Services and Policy Research: Sources and Strategies for Effective Information Searching*

For more information or to schedule this course, contact: Judy Smith

This hands-on workshop, requiring active participation, will provide participants with an introduction to health services and policy research information seeking. Participants will learn about the breadth of resources and leave with an understanding of the multi-pronged strategies needed to search on topics related to health care cost, quality, and access. Resources covered will include national health policy resources, including data, as well as grey literature.

Learning Objectives:

Participants will:

  • learn about and use health services research resources, including policy and data resources.
  • learn information seeking techniques for discovering evidence based content related to cost, quality, and access across a variety resources.
  • be able to identify policies on a variety of health-related topics.
  • be able to demonstrate course knowledge during hands on sessions.


Overview of workshop (5 minutes--presentation)

  • What we’ll cover
  • Learning objectives

What is Health Services Research (HSR)? (5 minutes--presentation)

  • Explanation of why multiple resources and strategies needed

Key Resources and Strategies (45 minutes--demonstrations and hands on)

Policy Resources

  • Demo
  • Hands on activity

Focus on Data --.Who collects it and why?

  • What data is not collected? (CONFIRM trial smoking issues, Government resources not tracking or allowing for intersectional concerns can you track race and gender together?) Use of anti anxiety drugs, how is the information gathered? Medical records, is there access to these? Do we need to ask through questionnaires. Statistical basics: deciphering tables
  • Key collections and what they cover ((CMS, AHRQ, etc..)
  • Hands on activity

Grey lit (for cost, quality, access resources)

  • Think Tanks
  • Associations
  • Advanced Google Searches
  • Hands-on activity

Break (5 minutes)

Case studies to pull all together -- 60 minutes--group activities and discussion)

  • Three or four studies will be provided (depends on how many participants). Participants will work in small groups, report out, and discuss as a class.
  • Case studies (the case studies below are DRAFTS to provide a sense of the topics we may cover.

1.Obesity Policy:

You are working with a group of graduate students who need to write a policy brief supporting a state obesity policy of their choice. Find one bill in play and find one existing policy. What are some resources you used to find these policies? Which states seem to be having more success than others in addressing obesity-related issues? Explain your approach and some specific resources identified.

2. Cost of Treatment:

You’ve been tasked by your hospital administration with finding information related to cost of treatment for bipolar disease. What tools would you use? What strategies would you take?

3. Data to shape health policy proposals:

Is there a correlation between food deserts and access to primary care (i.e. preventive services such as screening colonoscopy, hospital readmission rates, ER visits, etc) that can be provided by community health centers in Chicago, Illinois?

4. Health Services Accessibility

How do we address inequalities in access to health care? How would you go about finding evidence for the types of policies that governments and hospitals can implement to reduce inequalities?


This session is specifically designed to be presented at the Health Science Librarians of Minnesota annual meeting in late August. No prior skills or knowledge are required.

MLA CE Credits: 3