Holger Pfaff

Prof. Dr. Holger Pfaff


Holger Pfaff studied social and administrative sciences at the Universities of Erlangen-Nuremberg and Constance and attended the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, USA) during a study visit. He then worked as a research associate at the University of Oldenburg and subsequently as a research fellow at TU Berlin. In 1995, he achieved habilitation in sociology. He then became a visiting professor at TU Berlin in the area of technical and industrial sociology. Since 1997, he has held the Medical Sociology professorship at the University of Cologne. Since 2002, Prof. Pfaff has been the spokesperson for the Center for Health Services Research Cologne (ZVFK). He was chairman of the German Society of Medical Sociology (DGMS) from 2002 to 2010 and spokesperson of the Clearing House Health Services Research North Rhine-Westphalia from 2004 to 2009. He has been chairman of the German Network Health Services Research (DNVF) e.V. since 2006 and director of the Institute of Medical Sociology, Health Services Research, and Rehabilitation Science (IMVR) of the University of Cologne since 2009. This “bridge institute” is a joint institution of the Faculties of Human Sciences and Medicine. Since 2009, he has held the professorship Quality Development and Evaluation in Rehabilitation, which is responsible for the teaching fields Medical Sociology (Faculty of Medicine) and Quality Development in Rehabilitation (Faculty of Human Sciences).

Prof. Pfaff’s research focuses on three interconnected areas: health services research, social epidemiology (sociology of health), and healthcare system design. Health services research centers on the analysis of the health services and healthcare system. The effectiveness of this system is measured by how well it contributes to healing, prolongs life, and/or improves the quality of life; therefore, it is important to determine to what degree the healthcare and health services system (health services structures and processes, health organizations) can contribute to these outcomes. These topics are relevant to social epidemiology and health services epidemiology and are therefore also an important part of the sociology of health. The third area of focus concerns the practical implementation of insights from health services research and social epidemiology. It centers on how interventions in healthcare organizations and healthcare networks (e.g., integrated health services) must be planned and designed to achieve a change in behavior of the stakeholders (e.g., physicians and patients) and an improvement in system outcomes (life expectancy, quality of life, patient satisfaction).

Focus area I: Health services research

  • Theoretical and methodological foundations of health services research
  • Sociology of the health services and healthcare system (organizational sociological and medical sociological foundations of health services research)
  • Physician-patient interaction: dimensions, causes, consequences
  • Health services structures and processes: design, determinants, impacts
  • Healthcare organizations: characteristics and effects on health
  • Behavior in the healthcare system: phenomena, determinants, consequences

Focus area II: Social and health services epidemiology

  • Sociological foundations of epidemiology (sociology of health)
  • Health services epidemiology (effects of health services structures and processes, organizational structures, and health technologies on health)
  • Work and health (effects of work life on health)

Focus area III: Social system design and interventions

  • Theoretical and methodological foundations of system design and intervention
  • Health services and health system design
  • Workplace health management, workplace health promotion and prevention
  • Influencing the behavior of patients, staff, and stakeholders in the healthcare system
  • Breidenbach, C., Heidkamp, P., Hiltrop, K., Pfaff, H., Enders, A., Ernstmann, N. & Kowalski, C. (2022). Prevalence and determinants of anxiety and depression in long-term breast cancer survivors. BMC psychiatry, 22(1), 101. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12888-022-03735-3
  • Cecon, N., Krieger, T., Salm, S., Pfaff, H. & Dresen, A. (2022). Salutogenesis at Work as a Facilitator for Implementation? An Explorative Study on the Relationship of Job Demands, Job Resources and the Work-Related Sense of Coherence within a Complex Healthcare Programme. International journal of environmental research and public health, 19(3), 1842. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19031842
  • Choi, K.‑E. A., Lindert, L., Schlomann, L. & Pfaff, H. (2022). “I’ll leave that to the case managers.” Healthcare Service Providers’ Perceptions of Organizational Readiness for Change in a Randomized Controlled Trial-A Qualitative Analysis Exploring Implementation Success. International journal of environmental research and public health, 19(9), 5782. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19095782
  • Demirer, I., Kühhirt, M., Karbach, U. & Pfaff, H. (2022). Does positive affect mediate the association of multimorbidity on depressive symptoms? Aging & mental health, 26(1), 65–76. https://doi.org/10.1080/13607863.2020.1870209
  • Hiltrop, K., Heidkamp, P., Breidenbach, C., Kowalski, C., Enders, A., Pfaff, H., Ansmann, L., Geiser, F. & Ernstmann, N. (2022). Involuntariness of job changes is related to less satisfaction with occupational development in long-term breast cancer survivors. Journal of cancer survivorship : research and practice, 16(2), 397–407. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11764-021-01035-5
  • Kremeike, K., Ullrich, A., Schulz, H., Rosendahl, C., Boström, K., Kaur, S., Oubaid, N., Plathe-Ignatz, C., Leminski, C., Hower, K., Pfaff, H., Hellmich, M., Oechsle, K. & Voltz, R. (2022). Dying in hospital in Germany – optimising care in the dying phase: study protocol for a multi-centre bottom-up intervention on ward level. BMC palliative care, 21(1), 67. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12904-022-00960-1
  • Krieger, T., Salm, S., Dresen, A., Arning, A., Schwickerath, K., Göttel, A., Houwaart, S., Pfaff, H. & Cecon, N. (2022). Optimizing Patient Information Material for a New Psycho-Oncological Care Program Using a Participatory Health Research Approach in Germany. International journal of environmental research and public health, 19(3), 1518. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19031518
  • Kusch, M., Labouvie, H., Schiewer, V., Talalaev, N., Cwik, J. C., Bussmann, S., Vaganian, L., Gerlach, A. L., Dresen, A., Cecon, N., Salm, S., Krieger, T., Pfaff, H., Lemmen, C., Derendorf, L., Stock, S., Samel, C., Hagemeier, A., Hellmich, M., . . . Hallek, M. (2022). Integrated, cross-sectoral psycho-oncology (isPO): a new form of care for newly diagnosed cancer patients in Germany. BMC health services research, 22(1), 543. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12913-022-07782-0
  • Kuske, S., Holmberg, C., Wensing, M., Reuschenbach, B., Büscher, A., Neugebauer, E., Pfaff, H., Karbach, U., Balzer, K., Köpke, S. & Ernstmann, N. (2022). Studiengänge zur Versorgungsforschung in Deutschland: aktueller Stand und zukünftige Perspektiven [Educational Programmes in Health Services Research in Germany: Current State and Future Perspectives]. Gesundheitswesen (Bundesverband der Arzte des Offentlichen Gesundheitsdienstes (Germany), 84(3), 227–241. https://doi.org/10.1055/a-1276-0686
  • Lindert, L., Schlomann, L., Pfaff, H. & Choi, K.‑E. A. (2022). The Role of Psychological Wellbeing in a Cross-Provider Worksite Healthcare Management Program for Employees with Musculoskeletal Disorders. International journal of environmental research and public health, 19(9), 5452. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19095452
  • Lubasch, J. S., Lee, S., Wirtz, M. A., Pfaff, H. & Ansmann, L. (2022). Validation of a patient-reported measure of social support provided by nurses in breast cancer care (SuPP-N): based on a cross-sectional patient survey in 83 German hospitals. BMJ open, 12(4), e054015. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2021-054015
  • Niecke, A., Peters, K. M., Alayli, A., Lüngen, M., Pfaff, H., Albus, C. & Samel, C. (2022). Health-related quality of life after 50 years in individuals with thalidomide embryopathy: Evidence from a German cross-sectional survey. Birth defects research. Vorab-Onlinepublikation. https://doi.org/10.1002/bdr2.2051
  • Ohlmeier, S., Klingler, C., Schellartz, I. & Pfaff, H. (2022). Having a Break or Being Imprisoned: Influence of Subjective Interpretations of Quarantine and Isolation on Boredom. International journal of environmental research and public health, 19(4), 2207. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19042207
  • Pfaff, H. (2022). The Social Infrastructure of Organizational Resilience, Agency Capacity and Resilience Spirals: Starting Points for Resilient Leadership. In M. Franco (Hrsg.), Leadership – New Insights (S. 175–198). IntechOpen. https://doi.org/10.5772/intechopen.101786
  • Pfaff, H., Pförtner, T.‑K., Banaszak-Holl, J., Hu, Y. & Hower, K. (2022). Is the Systemic Agency Capacity of Long-Term Care Organizations Enabling Person-Centered Care during the COVID-19 Pandemic? A Repeated Cross-Sectional Study of Organizational Resilience. International journal of environmental research and public health, 19(9), 5045. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19095045
  • Pförtner, T.‑K., Pfaff, H. & Elgar, F. J. (2022). Dualized Labor Market and Polarized Health: A Longitudinal Perspective on the Association between Precarious Employment and Mental and Physical Health in Germany. Journal of health and social behavior, 221465211066855. https://doi.org/10.1177/00221465211066855
  • Salm, S., Cecon, N., Jenniches, I., Pfaff, H., Scholten, N., Dresen, A. & Krieger, T. (2022). Conducting a prospective evaluation of the development of a complex psycho-oncological care programme (isPO) in Germany. BMC health services research, 22(1), 531. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12913-022-07951-1
  • Sibert, N. T., Pfaff, H., Breidenbach, C., Wesselmann, S., Roth, R., Feick, G., Carl, G., Dieng, S., Gaber, A. A., Blana, A., Darr, C., Distler, F., Kunath, F., Bedke, J., Erdmann, J., Minner, J., Simon, J., Kwiatkowski, M., Burchardt, M., . . . Kowalski, C. (2022). Variation across operating sites in urinary and sexual outcomes after radical prostatectomy in localized and locally advanced prostate cancer. World journal of urology, 40(6), 1437–1446. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00345-022-03985-6
  • Wurster, F., Fütterer, G., Beckmann, M., Dittmer, K., Jaschke, J., Köberlein-Neu, J., Okumu, M.‑R., Rusniok, C., Pfaff, H. & Karbach, U. (2022). The Analyzation of Change in Documentation due to the Introduction of Electronic Patient Records in Hospitals-A Systematic Review. Journal of Medical Systems, 46(8), 54. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10916-022-01840-0
  • Zeike, S. & Pfaff, H. (2022). Kennzahlen im BGM und Steuerung des BGM-Prozesses. In M. Lange, D. Matusiewicz & O. Walle (Hrsg.), Haufe Fachbuch. Praxishandbuch Betriebliches Gesundheitsmanagement: Grundlagen – Standards – Trends (1. Aufl., S. 379–401). Haufe-Lexware.
  • Zeike, S., Pfaff, H. & Pförtner, T.‑K. (2022). Förderung der Gesundheitskompetenz von Führungskräften. In K. Rathmann, K. Dadaczynski, O. Okan & M. Messer (Hrsg.), Springer Reference Pflege – Therapie – Gesundheit. Gesundheitskompetenz (S. 1–11). Springer Berlin Heidelberg. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-662-62800-3_93-1
  • Neumann, J., Seinsche, L., Zeike, S., Lindert, L. & Pfaff, H. (August 2021). Homeoffice- und Präsenzkultur im öffentlichen Dienst in Zeiten der Covid-19-Pandemie: Follow-Up-Befragung. Köln. Institut für Medizinsoziologie, Versorgungsforschung und Rehabilitation (IMVR).
  • Seinsche, L., Neumann, J., Lindert, L., Zeike, S. & Pfaff, H. (August 2021). Homeoffice- und Präsenzkultur im Bereich IT und technische Dienstleistungen in Zeiten der Covid-19-Pandemie: Follow-Up-Befragung. Köln. Institut für Medizinsoziologie, Versorgungsforschung und Rehabilitationswissenschaft (IMVR).
  • Ansmann, L., Vennedey, V., Hillen, H. A., Stock, S., Kuntz, L., Pfaff, H., Mannion, R., Hower, K. I. & Cologne Research And Development Network CoRe-Net Study Group, C. R. A. D. N. C.‑N. S. G. (2021). Resource dependency and strategy in healthcare organizations during a time of scarce resources: evidence from the metropolitan area of cologne. Journal of health organization and management, 35(9), 211–227. https://doi.org/10.1108/JHOM-12-2020-0478
  • Beckmann, M., Dittmer, K., Jaschke, J., Karbach, U., Köberlein-Neu, J., Nocon, M., Rusniok, C., Wurster, F. & Pfaff, H. (2021). Electronic patient record and its effects on social aspects of interprofessional collaboration and clinical workflows in hospitals (eCoCo): a mixed methods study protocol. BMC health services research, 21(1), 377. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12913-021-06377-5
  • Cecon, N., Lee, S., Pfaff, H., Dresen, A. & Groß, S. E. (2021). Development of the health behaviour scale for cancer patients (HBSCP), analysis of its factorial structure and evaluation of its psychometric properties. European journal of cancer care, 30(2), e13386. https://doi.org/10.1111/ecc.13386
  • Cecon, N., Pfaff, H., Lee, S. & Dresen, A. (2021). A salutogenic model predicting the need for psycho-oncological care and its utilisation-The role of generalised resistance resources and sense of coherence. European journal of cancer care, 30(1), e13335. https://doi.org/10.1111/ecc.13335
  • Cheng, S., Hu, Y., Pfaff, H., Lu, C., Fu, Q., Wang, L., Li, D. & Xia, S. (2021). The Patient Safety Culture Scale for Chinese Primary Health Care Institutions: Development, Validity and Reliability. Journal of patient safety, 17(2), 114–121. https://doi.org/10.1097/PTS.0000000000000733
  • Choi, K.‑E. A., Lindert, L., Schlomann, L., Samel, C., Hellmich, M. & Pfaff, H. (2021). A Cross-Provider Healthcare Management Program for Musculoskeletal Disorders: Results of a Randomized Controlled Trial in 22 German Companies. International journal of environmental research and public health, 18(22), 11844. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph182211844
  • Demirer, I., Bethge, M., Spyra, K., Karbach, U. & Pfaff, H. (2021). Does social support mediate the effect of multimorbidity on mental wellbeing in the German working population? A longitudinal mediation analysis using structural equation modelling. SSM – population health, 13, 100744. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ssmph.2021.100744
  • Dittmer, K., Hower, K. I., Beckmann, M., Karbach, U. & Pfaff, H. (2021). A qualitative study of the adoption of Value Stream Mapping in breast cancer centers. European journal of oncology nursing : the official journal of European Oncology Nursing Society, 54, 102037. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ejon.2021.102037
  • Hammer, A., Arah, O. A., Mannion, R., Groene, O., Sunol, R., Pfaff, H. & Choi, K.‑E. A. (2021). Measuring social capital of hospital management boards in European hospitals: A validation study on psychometric properties of a questionnaire for Chief Executive Officers. BMC health services research, 21(1), 1036. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12913-021-07067-y
  • Heidkamp, P., Breidenbach, C., Hiltrop, K., Kowalski, C., Enders, A., Pfaff, H., Weltermann, B., Geiser, F. & Ernstmann, N. (2021). Individual courses and determinants of fear of cancer recurrence in long-term breast cancer survivors with and without recurrence. Supportive care in cancer : official journal of the Multinational Association of Supportive Care in Cancer, 29(12), 7647–7657. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00520-021-06329-z
  • Hildebrandt, H., Bahrs, O., Borchers, U., Glaeske, G., Griewing, B., Härter, M., Hanneken, J., Hilbert, J., Klapper, B., Klitzsch, W., Köster-Steinebach, I., Kurscheid, C., Lodwig, V., Pfaff, H., Schaeffer, D., Sturm, H., Schrappe, M., Wehkamp, K.‑H. & Wild, D. (2021). Integrierte Versorgung – jetzt! In H. Hildebrandt, R. Stuppardt & B. Augurzky (Hrsg.), Gesundheitswesen in der Praxis. Zukunft Gesundheit – regional, vernetzt, patientenorientiert (S. 1–2). medhochzwei Verlag.
  • Hower, K., Pförtner, T.‑K., Pfaff, H., Wensing, M. & Ansmann, L. (2021). Innovationen im Gesundheitswesen. In B. Blättel-Mink, I. Schulz-Schaeffer & A. Windeler (Hrsg.), Handbuch Innovationsforschung: Sozialwissenschaftliche Perspektiven (S. 629–648). Springer VS. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-658-17668-6_43
  • Hower, K. I., Pfaff, H. & Pförtner, T.‑K. (2021). Is time a healer? Course of demands during the COVID-19 pandemic in long-term care: a repeated cross-sectional survey in Germany. Journal of public health (Oxford, England), 43(3), e435-e437. https://doi.org/10.1093/pubmed/fdab144
  • Hower, K. I., Pförtner, T.‑K., Saak, P., Schneider, A., Aydin, O., Pfaff, H., Kons, J., Groß, S. & Ansmann, L. (2021). Evaluation des FITKIDS-Programms zum gesunden Aufwachsen von Kindern aus suchtbelasteten Familien. Suchttherapie, 22(02), 91–100. https://doi.org/10.1055/a-1168-3676
  • Knieps, F. & Pfaff, H. (Hrsg.). (2021). BKK Gesundheitsreport: Bd. 2021. Krise – Wandel – Aufbruch: Zahlen, Daten, Fakten. Medizinisch Wissenschaftliche Verlagsgesellschaft.
  • Krieger, T., Salm, S., Cecon, N., Pfaff, H. & Dresen, A. (2021). Ergebnisbericht der zweiten externen formativen Evaluation des Projekts isPO – integrierte, sektorenübergreifende Psychoonkologie (FE.2.0).: eröffentlichungsreihe des Instituts für Medizinsoziologie, Versorgungsforschung und Rehabilitationswissenschaft (IMVR) der Universität zu Köln (Ergebnisbericht 03-2021). Köln.
  • Leidner, C., Vennedey, V., Hillen, H., Ansmann, L., Stock, S., Kuntz, L., Pfaff, H. & Hower, K. I. (2021). Implementation of patient-centred care: which system-level determinants matter from a decision maker’s perspective? Results from a qualitative interview study across various health and social care organisations. BMJ open, 11(9), e050054. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2021-050054
  • Lubasch, J. S., Lee, S., Kowalski, C., Beckmann, M., Pfaff, H. & Ansmann, L. (2021). Hospital Processes and the Nurse-Patient Interaction in Breast Cancer Care. Findings from a Cross-Sectional Study. International journal of environmental research and public health, 18(15), 8224. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18158224
  • Müller, B. S., Klaaßen-Mielke, R., Gonzalez-Gonzalez, A. I., Grandt, D., Hammerschmidt, R., Köberlein-Neu, J., Kellermann-Mühlhoff, P., Trampisch, H. J., Beckmann, T., Düvel, L., Surmann, B., Flaig, B., Ihle, P., Söling, S., Grandt, S., Dinh, T. S., Piotrowski, A., Meyer, I., Karbach, U., . . . Muth, C. (2021). Effectiveness of the application of an electronic medication management support system in patients with polypharmacy in general practice: a study protocol of cluster-randomised controlled trial (AdAM). BMJ open, 11(9), e048191. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2020-048191
  • Nakata, H., Halbach, S., Geiser, F., Stock, S., Kowalski, C., Enders, A., Pfaff, H. & Ernstmann, N. (2021). Health literacy, mental disorders and fear of progression and their association with a need for psycho-oncological care over the course of a breast cancer treatment. Psychology, health & medicine, 26(7), 818–831. https://doi.org/10.1080/13548506.2020.1772987
  • Niecke, A., Ramesh, I., Albus, C., Lüngen, M., Pfaff, H., Samel, C. & Peters, K. M. (2021). Chronische Schmerzen bei Menschen mit Thalidomid-Embryopathie Eine explorative Analyse zu Prävalenz, schmerzbezogenen Merkmalen und biopsychosozialen Faktoren [Chronic Pain in People Impaired by Thalidomide Embryopathy: An Explorative Analysis of Prevalence, Pain Parameters and Biopsychosocial Factors]. Psychotherapie, Psychosomatik, medizinische Psychologie, 71(9-10), 370–380. https://doi.org/10.1055/a-1457-2846