The role of models
In this book you will learn about a range of approaches to model building and decision support. The aim of this chapter is to introduce the main underlying concepts. You start by reading about types of rationality and what makes management decision making in health care difficult. You are then introduced to some of the different types of models that can be used to support and inform decision making processes, and read about a particular example of model building in health services. After this you learn about some of the components of a decision support model, and what makes a good model.
By the end of this chapter, you will be better able to:
• describe some of the characteristics of decision making in health care
• explain what is meant by a 'model' in the context of decision making, and
identify the common features of such models
• describe some of the kinds of problem that health services models can
• understand the basic model-building process, what makes a good
model, and some of the criticisms of using them to inform decision
Models Ways of representing processes, relationships and systems in simplified, communicable
form. Iconic models are representations of how the system looks. Graphic models are
essentially diagrams, often consisting of boxes and arrows showing different types of
relationships. Symbolic models involve sets of formulae, representing the relationships
between variables in quantitative terms.
Operational research (OR) The application of scientific methods to management decision
making. The development and use of symbolic, and more recently, qualitative models are
arguably the distinctive features of the OR contribution.
Problem structuring Methods of clarifying problems by developing a shared understanding of
them among decision makers or stakeholders, and clarifying objectives and options. They draw
on ideas about procedural as well as substantive rationality.