Public Preferences in Priority Setting when Admitting Patients to the ICU During the COVID-19 Crisis: A Pilot Study

Merle Gijsbers, Iris Elise Keizer, Stephanie Else Schouten, Janneke Louise Trompert, Catharina G.M. Groothuis-Oudshoorn, Janine Astrid van Til*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
26 Downloads (Pure)


Introduction: One of the challenges faced by hospitals during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic is resource shortages in intensive care units (ICUs). In times of scarcity, patient prioritization based on non-medical considerations might be necessary. Objective: The aim of this study was to pilot test a survey to elicit public opinions on the relative importance of non-medical considerations in priority setting when admitting patients to the ICU in times of crisis. Methods: A discrete-choice experiment was used to collect social preferences for priority setting when admitting patients to the ICU during the COVID-19 pandemic. The six attributes were patient age, profession, guardianship, risk-conscious behavior on a societal level, health-conscious behavior, and expected ICU length of stay. The data were analyzed using a mixed multinomial logit model. Interactions between the age and profession of the respondents and the age and profession of the patient profiles were considered. Results: The mean (± standard deviation) age of respondents was 35.9 ± 14.5 years. In all, 70% of respondents indicated that medical and/or non-medical considerations should play a role in prioritizing patients for the ICU, whereas 15% agreed with a “first come, first served” strategy and the remaining 15% had no opinion. Respondents deemed risk-conscious behavior on a societal level to be the most important non-medical factor that should be used to prioritize patients in phase three of the framework, garnering an attribute importance (AI) of 31.2%, followed by patient age (AI 16.3%) and health-conscious behavior (AI 16.0%). ICU length of stay had the lowest impact on patient prioritization for ICU admittance (AI 10.9%). Younger and older respondents attached more importance to age than respondents in the middle age group and indicated a stronger preference to prioritize patients in their own age group (p = 0.042). Conclusion: The results of our study demonstrate the relative importance members of the public attach to responsible societal behavior during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the next phase of the study, we will elicit the perspectives of a representative sample of the Dutch population. Changes to the task design and attribute operationalization could improve the external validity of the study findings, and optimization of the experimental design will improve the internal validity of the study.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)331-338
Number of pages8
Issue number3
Early online date22 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - May 2021


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