Questions under study: The starting point of the interdisciplinary project "Assessing the impact of diagnosis related groups (DRGs) on patient care and professional practice" (IDoC) was the lack of a systematic ethical assessment for the introduction of cost containment measures in healthcare. Our aim was to contribute to the methodological and empirical basis of such an assessment.
Methods: Five sub-groups conducted separate but related research within the fields of biomedical ethics, law, nursing sciences and health services, applying a number of complementary methodological approaches. The individual research projects were framed within an overall ethical matrix. Workshops and bilateral meetings were held to identify and elaborate joint research themes.
Results: Four common, ethically relevant themes emerged in the results of the studies across sub-groups: (1.) the quality and safety of patient care, (2.) the state of professional practice of physicians and nurses, (3.) changes in incentives structure, (4.) vulnerable groups and access to healthcare services. Furthermore, much-needed data for future comparative research has been collected and some early insights into the potential impact of DRGs are outlined.
Conclusions: Based on the joint results we developed preliminary recommendations related to conceptual analysis, methodological refinement, monitoring and implementation.