BACKGROUND: Free choice of hospital has been introduced in many healthcare systems to accommodate patient preferences and incentivize hospitals to compete; however, little is known about what patients actually prefer.
OBJECTIVES: This study assessed women's preferences for birthing hospital in Denmark by quantifying the utility and trade-offs of hospital attributes.
METHODS: We conducted a discrete-choice experiment survey with 12 hypothetical scenarios in which women had to choose between three hospitals characterized by five attributes: continuity of midwifery care, availability of a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), hospital services offered, level of specialization to handle rare events, and travel time. A random parameter logit model was used to estimate the utility and marginal willingness to travel (WTT) for improvements in other hospital attributes.
RESULTS: A total of 517 women completed the survey. Significant preferences were expressed for all attributes (p < 0.01), with the availability of a NICU being the most important driver of women's preferences; women were willing to travel 30 more minutes (95% confidence interval 28-32) to reach a hospital with a highly specialized NICU. The subgroup analyses revealed differences in WTT, with substantial heterogeneity due to prior experience with giving birth and regarding risk attitude and health literacy.
CONCLUSION: A high specialization level was the most influential factor for women without previous birth experience and for risk-averse individuals but not for women with a high health literacy score. Hence, more information about the woman's risk profile and services required could play a role in affecting hospital choice.