Objective: To assess the impact of quality of care and other hospital information on patients' choices between hospitals.
Methods: 665 former surgical patients were invited to respond to an Internet-based questionnaire including a choice-based conjoint analysis. Each patient was presented with 12 different comparisons of 2 hospitals, with each hospital characterized by 6 attributes containing 2 levels. Hospital attributes were included if frequently reported by patients as most important for future hospital choices. These included both general hospital information (e.g., atmosphere), information on quality of care (e.g., percentage of patients with "textbook outcome"), and surgery-specific information (e.g., possibility for minimally invasive procedure). Hierarchial Bayes estimation was used to estimate the utilities for each attribute level for each patient. Based on the ranges of these utilities, the relative importance of each hospital attribute was determined for each participant as a measure of the impact on patients' choices.
Results: 308 (46.3%) questionnaires were available for analysis. Of the hospital attributes that patients considered, surgery-specific information on average had the highest relative importance (25.7 [23.9-27.5]), regardless of gender, age, and education. Waiting time and hospital atmosphere were considered least important. The attribute concerning the percentage of patients with "textbook outcomes" had the second greatest impact (18.3 [16.9-19.6]), which was similar for patients with different adverse outcome experience.
Conclusions: Surgery-specific and quality of care information are more important than general information when patients choose between hospitals.