Public preferences for primary care provision in Germany - a discrete choice experiment.
BACKGROUND:Primary care is a central element of healthcare and addresses the main health problems of the population. While primary care gains in importance due to an aging population, there is an ongoing debate on physician shortages in German rural regions. The study aims on analyzing the population's preferences on primary healthcare and, therefore, on helping policy makers to make care delivery more responsive to patients' needs when planning political reforms of primary care. METHODS:A paper-based discrete choice experiment (DCE) was used to assess preferences of the population of eight rural regions in Germany. Based on literature search and qualitative research, six attributes were selected and included in the choice experiment. The survey presented participants with eight choice sets in which they had to choose between two possible scenarios of care. A conditional logistic regression as well as a latent class model (LCM) were used to analyze preferences for primary healthcare. RESULTS:Nine hundred four participants completed the survey (response rate 46.1%). The conditional logistic regression showed significant impact of the attributes "home visits", "distance to practice", "number of healthcare providers", "opening hours of the practice", and "diagnostic facilities" on the respondents' choices of primary healthcare alternatives. Moreover, the LCM identified four classes that can be characterized by preference homogeneity within and heterogeneity between the classes. CONCLUSION:Although the study revealed heterogeneous preferences among the latent classes, several similarities in preferences for primary care could be detected. The knowledge on these public preferences may help policy makers when implementing new models of primary care and, thus, raise the populations' acceptance of future primary care provision and innovative care models.