Background: Swedish health care authorities use three key criteria to produce national guidelines for local priority setting: severity of the health condition, expected patient benefit, and cost-effectiveness of medical intervention. Priority setting in primary health care (PHC) has significant implications for health costs and outcomes in the health care system. Nevertheless, these guidelines have been implemented to a very limited degree in PHC. The objective of the study was to qualitatively assess how general practitioners (GPs) and nurses perceive the application of the three key priority-setting criteria.
Methods: Focus groups were held with GPs and nurses at primary health care centres, where the staff had a short period of experience in using the criteria for prioritising in their daily work.
Results: The staff found the three key priority-setting criteria (severity, patient benefit, and cost-effectiveness) to be valuable for priority setting in PHC. However, when the criteria were applied in PHC, three additional dimensions were identified: 1) viewpoint (medical or patient's), 2) timeframe (now or later), and 3) evidence level (group or individual).
Conclusions: The three key priority-setting criteria were useful. Considering the three additional dimensions might enhance implementation of national guidelines in PHC and is probably a prerequisite for the criteria to be useful in priority setting for individual patients.