Background: There is current interest in incorporating weights based on public preferences for health and healthcare into priority-setting decisions.
Objective: The aim of this systematic review was to explore the extent to which public preferences and trade-offs for priority-setting criteria have been quantified, and to describe the study contexts and preference elicitation methods employed.
Methods: A systematic review was performed in April 2013 to identify empirical studies eliciting the stated preferences of the public for the provision of healthcare in a priority-setting context. Studies are described in terms of (i) the stated preference approaches used, (ii) the priority-setting levels and contexts, and (iii) the criteria identified as important and their relative importance.
Results: Thirty-nine studies applying 40 elicitation methods reported in 41 papers met the inclusion criteria. The discrete choice experiment method was most commonly applied (n = 18, 45.0 %), but other approaches, including contingent valuation and the person trade-off, were also used. Studies prioritised health systems (n = 4, 10.2 %), policies/programmes/services/interventions (n = 16, 41.0 %), or patient groups (n = 19, 48.7 %). Studies generally confirmed the importance of a wide range of process, non-health and patient-related characteristics in priority setting in selected contexts, alongside health outcomes. However, inconsistencies were observed for the relative importance of some prioritisation criteria, suggesting context and/or elicitation approach matter.
Conclusions: Overall, findings suggest caution in directly incorporating public preferences as weights for priority setting unless the methods used to elicit the weights can be shown to be appropriate and robust in the priority-setting context.