As referrals to specialist palliative care (PC) grow in volume and diversity, an evidence-based triage method is needed to enable services to manage waiting lists in a transparent, efficient, and equitable manner. Discrete choice experiments (DCEs) have not to date been used among PC clinicians, but may serve as a rigorous and efficient method to explore and inform the complex decision-making involved in PC triage. This article presents the protocol for a novel application of an international DCE as part of a mixed-method research program, ultimately aiming to develop a clinical decision-making tool for PC triage.
Five stages of protocol development were undertaken: (1) identification of attributes of interest; (2) creation and (3) execution of a pilot DCE; and (4) refinement and (5) planned execution of the final DCE.
Six attributes of interest to PC triage were identified and included in a DCE that was piloted with 10 palliative care practitioners. The pilot was found to be feasible, with an acceptable cognitive burden, but refinements were made, including the creation of an additional attribute to allow independent analysis of concepts involved. Strategies for recruitment, data collection, analysis, and modeling were confirmed for the final planned DCE.
Significance of results
This DCE protocol serves as an example of how the sophisticated DCE methodology can be applied to health services research in PC. Discussion of key elements that improved the utility, integrity, and feasibility of the DCE provide valuable insights.