Reconciling patient and provider priorities for improving the care of critically ill patients: A consensus method and qualitative analysis of decision making

Health Expect. 2017 Dec;20(6):1367-1374. doi: 10.1111/hex.12576. Epub 2017 May 31.


Background: Providers have traditionally established priorities for quality improvement; however, patients and their family members have recently become involved in priority setting. Little is known about how to reconcile priorities of different stakeholder groups into a single prioritized list that is actionable for organizations.

Objective: To describe the decision-making process for establishing consensus used by a diverse panel of stakeholders to reconcile two sets of quality improvement priorities (provider/decision maker priorities n=9; patient/family priorities n=19) into a single prioritized list.

Design: We employed a modified Delphi process with a diverse group of panellists to reconcile priorities for improving care of critically ill patients in the intensive care unit (ICU). Proceedings were audio-recorded, transcribed and analysed using qualitative content analysis to explore the decision-making process for establishing consensus.

Setting and participants: Nine panellists including three providers, three decision makers and three family members of previously critically ill patients.

Results: Panellists rated and revised 28 priorities over three rounds of review and reached consensus on the "Top 5" priorities for quality improvement: transition of patient care from ICU to hospital ward; family presence and effective communication; delirium screening and management; early mobilization; and transition of patient care between ICU providers. Four themes were identified as important for establishing consensus: storytelling (sharing personal experiences), amalgamating priorities (negotiating priority scope), considering evaluation criteria and having a priority champion.

Conclusions: Our study demonstrates the feasibility of incorporating families of patients into a multistakeholder prioritization exercise. The approach described can be used to guide consensus building and reconcile priorities of diverse stakeholder groups.

Keywords: consensus; critical care; health priorities; intensive care; intensive care unit; patient participation; qualitative research; quality improvement; surveys and questionnaires.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Communication
  • Consensus*
  • Critical Illness / therapy*
  • Decision Making*
  • Delphi Technique
  • Female
  • Health Priorities*
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Male
  • Patient-Centered Care / methods*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Quality Improvement*