Qualitative healthcare-research methodologies usually incorporate hermeneutic (interpretation based) methods of analysis to reach clarity about health-related questions that metrics alone are insufficient to answer. Several journals specialize in this type of approach, and I’ve chosen an example from the journal Qualitative Health Research from 2019 to illustrate this point. I will provide the citation at the end.
Storytelling and living narrative are qualitative methodologies that therapists can use to assess the perceptions and lived-experiences of the homeless population regarding their access to health-care services. By speaking with homeless individuals, important information can be gathered about their experiences. In this particular study, the data collected indicated that homeless people believed that in the US, a communication breakdown exists between the homeless and health-care providers. Because homelessness is associated with isolation from important health-care infrastructure and services, homeless people tend to be discriminated against. Poor health is endemic among the homeless population, the conclusions reached by the researchers was that this particular demographic of the US population has an overall negative view of the American healthcare system.
Methodologically, researchers went out to interview homeless residents in Mobile, Alabama. By employing Gadamer’s hermeneutic philosophy, the interviewers attempted to understand the responses of their subjects (the homeless population of Mobile) within the specific material and social circumstances within which those people lived. This methodology utilized reflexivity, interpretation, and dialogue in order to enhance the researcher’s awareness of the lived experiences of their subjects. Dialogue allowed researchers to both learn about participants’ backgrounds and to better understand their experiences in their immediate environment.
What is important to recognize about this kind of research methodology is that hermeneutic investigation is not intended to reveal any kind of capital “T” Truth about the situation of the homeless. Rather, interviews and dialogue, such as these researchers carried out with the homeless population in Mobile, is meant to signify how participants perceive their given situation, and to better understand what kinds of criteria these perceptions are based on. Furthermore, a limitation of this kind of research methodology is that the dynamic created by the presence of the researchers themselves—professional, upper-middle class, obviously not of the same class status as their interviewees—reduces the authenticity of testimony they received. Researchers must be aware of the likelihood that their own presence will adulterate the results of their investigation.
The example I have provided above came from the scientific journal Qualitative Health Research:
“Storytelling to Capture the Health Care Perspective of People who are Homeless,” Qualitative Health Research 30, no. 2 (Jan. 2020): 182-195.