Prioritizing patients for elective surgery: a prospective study of clinical priority assessment criteria in New Zealand

Int J Technol Assess Health Care. 2003 Winter;19(1):91-105. doi: 10.1017/s0266462303000096.


Objectives: Many hospitals in New Zealand have been using clinical priority assessment criteria (CPAC) to select and prioritize patients for access to publicly funded elective surgery. CPAC usually consist of clinical, patient-experienced, and social measures. The objective of this study was to determine how robust patient rankings were and the extent to which the patients selected were those who benefited the most from surgery.

Methods: Patients prioritized for cataract (n = 101), prostate (n = 103), and hip or knee joint replacement (n = 137) surgery according to CPAC were assessed using the EQ-5D, SF-12, and condition-related patient-experienced health status measures before and after treatment. Correlations between the rankings of patients on the CPACs and the alternative instruments were explored.

Results: For each surgery group, the CPAC ranking of patients was not strongly correlated with rankings obtained using their before-treatment EQ-5D (valued) profiles or the SF-12, although there was some correlation with rankings according to the condition-related measures. Improvements in the health status of patients who were operated on, as measured by the change in their EQ-5D values, were poorly correlated with equivalent changes on the SF-12 and condition-related measures. Patients' baseline health status according to the CPAC, the EQ-5D, and the SF-12 patient-experienced measures was only slightly related to the magnitude of benefit following surgery. The strongest predictors of improvement in health status were the baseline condition-related measures.

Conclusions: The current method of prioritizing patients in New Zealand requires reconsideration, although a gold standard method for prioritization is not immediately apparent from these results.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arthroplasty, Replacement
  • Cataract Extraction
  • Elective Surgical Procedures*
  • Health Care Rationing / classification*
  • Health Care Rationing / organization & administration
  • Health Priorities
  • Health Services Research
  • Humans
  • Male
  • New Zealand
  • Patient Selection*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Prostatic Hyperplasia / surgery
  • Severity of Illness Index*
  • Sickness Impact Profile*
  • State Medicine
  • Waiting Lists