The importance of population differences: Influence of individual characteristics on the Australian public's preferences for emergency care
P Harris, JA Whitty, E Kendall, J Ratcliffe, A Wilson, P Littlejohns
Abstract: A better understanding of the public’s preferences and what factors influence them is required if they are to be used to drive decision-making in health. This is particularly the case for service areas undergoing continual reform such as emergency and primary care. Accordingly, this study sought to determine if attitudes, socio-demographic characteristics and healthcare experiences influence the public’s intentions to access care and their preferences for hypothetical emergency care alternatives. A discrete choice experiment was used to elicit the preferences of Australian adults (n = 1529). Mixed logit regression analyses revealed the influence of a range of individual characteristics on preferences and service uptake choices across three different presenting scenarios. Age was associated with service uptake choices in all contexts, whilst the impact of other sociodemographics, health experience and attitudinal factors varied by context. The improvements in explanatory power observed from including these factors in the models highlight the need to further clarify their influence with larger populations and other presenting contexts, and to identify other determinants of preference heterogeneity. The results suggest social marketing programs undertaken as part of demand management efforts need to be better targeted if decision-makers are seeking to increase community acceptance of emerging service models and alternatives. Other implications for health policy, service planning and research, including for workforce planning and the possible introduction of a system of co-payments are discussed.