To proceed with achieving a particular health services research objective, the investigator often needs to describe various kinds of health states. This article addresses the overall question: "Should there be methodologic guidelines for the preparation of these health state descriptions?" This apparently straightforward question implies that the establishment of such guidelines might simplify the design, execution, analysis, and interpretation of studies in disparate fields of health care. However, a tangle of interrelated issues immediately emerge when this question is considered in greater depth. Accordingly, the main purpose of this article is to untangle these issues by placing them within an organizational framework that might, in turn, indicate where guideline development could be feasible and useful. The secondary purpose is to illustrate one approach to the preparation of health state descriptions that seems appropriate for a particular type of research problem and which, therefore, may serve as a place to begin the formulation of preparation guidelines.
Research and statistical methods
Health care evaluation
Health services research