Tag: mixed methods

Synthesising data

A not-uncommon research strategy in health and social care research is to generate different types of data and, through some process of transformation, bring these together into a coherent whole. The idea here is that combining data produces a more complete, detailed, analysis than can be created using one type of data alone. For example, in my doctorate, which focused on the system of mental health care and the division of labour, I conducted lots of qualitative interviews but also used written records as a source of data and observed people going about their day-to-day work. What people say, what people do, and what people write about they’ve done are not the same thing: knitting together a rich, or ‘thick’, description of a social setting is helped when different classes of data are available to be drawn upon. In more recent studies of care planning and coordination (see here and here) the research teams I’ve been a part of have variously combined interviews, documentary review, questionnaires and observations.

In a slow-burn kind of way, over a period of many months I’ve been working with members of the 3MDR project team to bring together data of very different types. The 3MDR study, led by Jon Bisson, is something I’ve written about before and involved examining the efficacy of a novel intervention for people with post-traumatic stress disorder. Across the project overall three, distinct, classes of data were generated: outcomes, derived from clinician-assessed and self-reported standardised measures; psychophysiological, including breathing and heart rate, walking pace, words and phrases used by participants during therapy, plus subjective unit of distress scores; and qualitative, namely post-therapy interviews where people talked about their views and experiences. Working particularly closely, in the first instance, with Robert van Deursen and Kali Barawi our task has been a mixed-methods data synthesis to explore the interrelationships between people, interventions and context and to investigate how factors within these three domains interact in specific outcome typologies.

This has been an interesting and challenging project, and we’re not yet done. Whilst many of the ideas underpinning this analysis are familiar ones (complexity, interconnections, the search for patterns) the combined dataset we’re mixing together is an unusual one. This work is also proving to be a reminder of how much can be found out through the detailed study of relatively small numbers of participants. Our data relate to ten people only, but our total dataset is both comprehensive and varied. At some point (but not quite yet) we’ll have a paper ready for journal submission, and I’ll be able to share more on this site.

Plan4Recovery

Here’s a post introducing the main findings paper from the Plan4Recovery study, led by Michael Coffey and funded through a Health and Social Care Wales Social Care Research Award.

Plan4Recovery used qualitative and quantitative methods to investigate the relationships between recovery, quality of life, social support and shared decision-making amongst people using social care services in Wales. The project team included mental health researchers with practitioner backgrounds, experience of using services, and of mixed methods studies. The paper, published in the journal Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, is in gold open access form which makes it free to download.

For a shortcut, here’s the abstract:

Purpose

Mental health care is a complex system that includes social care organisations providing support for people with continuing needs. The relationship over time between decisional conflict, social support, quality of life and recovery outcomes across two time periods for people experiencing mental health problems in receipt of social care was investigated.

Methods

This is a mixed methods study comprised of a quantitative survey at two time points using measures of decisional conflict, social support, recovery and quality of life in a random sample (n = 122) using social care services in Wales, UK. In addition, 16 qualitative case studies were developed from data collected from individuals, a supportive other and a care worker (n = 41) to investigate trajectories of care. Survey responses were statistically analysed using SPSS and case study data were thematically analysed.

Results

Participants reported increasing decisional conflict and decreasing social support, recovery and quality of life over the two time points. Linear regression indicated that higher recovery scores predict better quality of life ratings and as ratings for social support decline this is associated with lower quality of life. Correlational analysis indicated that lower decisional conflict is associated with higher quality of life. Thematic analysis indicated that ‘connectedness and recovery’ is a product of ‘navigating the system of care’ and the experience of ‘choice and involvement’ achieved by individuals seeking help.

Conclusions

These results indicate that quality of life for people experiencing mental health difficulties is positively associated with social support and recovery and negatively associated with decisional delay.