Discrete Choice Experiment (DCE)

A Discrete Choice Experiment (DCE) is a quantitative method increasingly used in healthcare to understand the preferences of various stakeholders, such as patients, payers, and commissioners, without directly asking them to state their preferred options. In a DCE, participants are presented with a series of hypothetical scenarios, each containing a set of variables or “attributes” (usually 5 or fewer), each of which has different “levels.”

Participants are asked to choose their preferred scenario from 2 or 3 competing alternatives, each of which is a combination of these attributes and levels. Typically, the survey includes 5-10 such choices to complete, which allows researchers to infer preferences based on the selections made rather than explicit statements of preference for each attribute level.

For example, a pharmaceutical company might use a DCE to determine patient preferences for a painkiller that could be administered as either a tablet or a liquid. Attributes might include:

– Time for painkiller to work: (<10 minutes, 10-30 minutes, >30 minutes)

– Convenience: (inconvenient, convenient)

– Number of repeat doses required: (0, 1-2, ≥3)

Participants would choose between different combinations of these attributes in hypothetical scenarios. The analysis of these choices reveals the relative importance of each attribute and the preferred levels within each attribute.

DCEs are widely used in healthcare evaluations to assess patient preferences for various aspects such as diagnostic services, clinic configurations, or different routes of medicine administration. This method provides valuable insights into what factors are most influential in decision-making, helping to design patient-centered healthcare services and interventions.