Prioritising patients on surgical waiting lists: A conjoint analysis study on the priority judgements of patients, surgeons, occupational physicians, and general practitioners

Jurriaan P. Oudhoff, D. R.M. Timmermans, D. L. Knol, A. B. Bijnen, G. Van der Wal

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21 Citations (Scopus)


The prioritisation of patients on waiting lists is ascribed high potential for diminishing the consequences of waiting times for elective surgery. However, consistent evidence is lacking about which factors determine patient priority and it is unclear whether different stakeholders have different opinions on this issue. This study, conducted in the Netherlands, investigates the judgements of patients, laypersons (i.e. patients on other waiting lists), and physicians on the priority of patients on waiting lists. Participants were former patients with varicose veins (N=82), inguinal hernia (N=86), and gallstones (N=89), 101 surgeons, 95 occupational physicians, and 65 general practitioners. Each participant judged the priority of paper vignettes of patients with varicose veins, inguinal hernia, and gallstones. The vignettes were designed according to conjoint analysis methodology and described the physical symptoms, the psychological distress, the social limitations, and impairments in work of patients. Multilevel regression analysis of the responses showed that all groups made significant distinctions in patient priority depending on the severity of each characteristic in the vignettes. The physical symptoms and impairments in work had on average the highest impact on priority, but the summed impact of non-physical factors exceeded that of the physical symptoms. The different groups of participants appraised only the importance of the physical symptoms differently, but opinions on priority varied widely within each group. Whereas the high level of agreement between the different groups would facilitate the acceptance and the implementation of explicit prioritisation of patients on the waiting list, the high inter-individual variation signifies that consensus criteria for prioritisation are needed to warrant equity and transparency in care provision.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1863-1875
Number of pages13
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2007


  • Access to care
  • Prioritisation
  • Surgery
  • The Netherlands
  • Waiting lists

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