AG Theories in health services research

Theories also play an important role in health services research. Theory formation, theoretical generalizations are the basis of scientific work and the communication of researchers within and outside of the scientific community. Theoretical work is the base for the constitution of scientific disciplines and scientific discourses that enable the reflexivity of specialized research in a subject area as well as its transitioning into teaching and the promotion of young researchers.

Health services research, as a strongly application-oriented empirical science, has so far been primarily concerned with interdisciplinary method development (see memoranda on method pluralism in health services research). Theoretical conceptions as well as different interdisciplinary perspectives have received little attention so far.

Objectives and tasks

The WG "Theories in Health Services Research" has set itself the task to strengthen theory-based work in health services research. The WG wants to deal with the status and importance of theory and theories in health services research.

WG activities

Current information

  • At the meeting on 07.10.2021, the task of the WG spokesperson was transferred to the members Larissa Burggraf and Dr. Vitali Heidt.
  • At the last meeting on 05.11.2021, the WG agreed to work on the following tasks:

        - Creation of a joint collection of theories
        - Further examination of the topics complexity and context
        - Participation in workshops of the DNVF Spring School
        - Discussion of the theroies used in health services research to date (as well as their limitations).

Those interested are welcome to attend upcoming meetings. We meet online the first Wednesday of every month at 14:00. Please feel free to contact us!


  • Dr. Meyer and Dr. Baumann participated as chair in several sessions at the German Congress on Health Services Research 2021, which celebrated its twentieth anniversary with a focus on "Daring more theory - promoting practice transfer and health services research 2.0".
  • The WG was invited by Prof. Lena Ansmann to participate in a joint symposium of the DNVF-WG Organisational health services research and the WG Health Services Research of the German Society for Medical Sociology (DGMS) in September 2020 under the question of theories in organization-related health services research.
  • The proposal that the WG should deal in a more detailed manner with the topic of complexity in health services research met with approval. To this end, the then spokesperson of the WG, Dr. Baumann, presented a working paper in February 2019, which was circulated among the WG members for comments and further development. It was decided to develop a proper position paper based on this this working paper. A proposal to this effect was forwarded to the DNVF-Board, which received a positive decision in August 2019. In 2020, the WG finalized the position paper on complexity in health services research and initiated an extended discussion process on this topic.
  • During a meeting at the DKVF 2018, the WG discussed possible thematic focal points for further work. The considerations for the development of a collection of theories in health services research, which were developed following the theory memorandum prepared, were discarded on this occasion.
  • The WG also held symposia on various aspects of theory development in health services research at the DKVF in 2014, 2015 and 2016, which enjoyed broad interest among congress participants. The WG would like to expand the circle of interested parties and contributors and is happy to be contacted.
  • Considering this background, the WG, after consultation with the DNVF board, took on the task of preparing a memorandum on the "Theoretical and normative foundation of health services research". The work on this Memorandum IV of the DNVF was the focus of activities in 2014 and 2015. After coordination within the DNVF, the Memorandum was published in spring 2016 (see Publications).

W. Baumann, E. Farin, A. Menzel-Bergmann, T. Meyer; Memorandum IV: Theoretical and Normative Grounding of Health Services Research, Das Gesundheitswesen. 2016; 78: 337–352, DOI