Optimizing Care for Adults with Congenital Heart Disease: Results of a Conjoint Analysis Based on a Nationwide Sample of Patients Included in the German National Register

J Clin Med. 2021 Aug 6;10(16):3483. doi: 10.3390/jcm10163483.


(1) Background: Congenital heart disease (CHD) requires lifelong specialized care. Failure to follow up and gaps in care are common in this group and lead to increased morbidity/mortality. We evaluated patients' perceived needs and expectations regarding specialized care using state-of-the-art statistical and market research techniques based on a nationwide sample of CHD patients. (2) Methods: A random sample of adults with CHD registered in the German National Register for Congenital Heart Defects were invited to answer an adaptive online questionnaire based on the conjoint analysis (CA) technique. CA determines the relative importance of various aspects of health care provision and allows individuals to trade between characteristics, thus recognizing limited resources. (3) Results: 637 patients participated (mean age 33.8 ± 12.6 years; 55.6% female; disease complexity: simple defect 12.6%, moderate complexity 40.3%, complex CHD 40.2%) in the analysis. Patients assigned the highest relative importance to aspects of patient-physician communication, physician qualifications, waiting time, medical care, and medical equipment. Comfort-related aspects such as driving time or hotel aspects of care received much lower scores. We identified four well-defined clusters of patients with differing expectation patterns: (i) time sensitive patients; (ii) excellence seeking patients; (iii) continuity seekers, and (iv) support seeking patients. (4) Conclusions: Adult CHD patients rank effective patient-physician interaction and communication as the most important factors. As we identified significant heterogeneity between CHD patients, centers should cater for individual preferences and integrate individual needs into treatment plans to prevent failure to follow up and ensure patient compliance.

Keywords: adult congenital heart disease; conjoint analysis; healthcare provision; registry; survey.