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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Determinants of patient choice of healthcare providers: a scoping review

Aafke Victoor1*, Diana MJ Delnoij23, Roland D Friele12 and Jany JDJM Rademakers1

Author Affiliations

1 NIVEL, Netherlands Institute for Health Services Research, P.O. Box 1568, 3500 BN, Utrecht, Netherlands

2 Tilburg School of Social and Behavioural Sciences, Tilburg University, Tranzo, P.O. Box 90153, 5000 LE, Tilburg, Netherlands

3 Centre for Consumer Experience in Health Care (CKZ), P.O. Box 1568, 3500 BN, Utrecht, Netherlands

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BMC Health Services Research 2012, 12:272  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-12-272

Published: 22 August 2012

Abstract

Background

In several northwest European countries, a demand-driven healthcare system has been implemented that stresses the importance of patient healthcare provider choice. In this study, we are conducting a scoping review aiming to map out what is known about the determinants of patient choice of a wide range of healthcare providers. As far as we know, not many studies are currently available that attempt to draw a general picture of how patients choose a healthcare provider and of the status of research on this subject. This study is therefore a valuable contribution to the growing amount of literature about patient choice.

Methods

We carried out a specific type of literature review known as a scoping review. Scoping reviews try to examine the breadth of knowledge that is available about a particular topic and therefore do not make selections or apply quality constraints. Firstly, we defined our research questions and searched the literature in Embase, Medline and PubMed. Secondly, we selected the literature, and finally we analysed and summarized the information.

Results

Our review shows that patients’ choices are determined by a complex interplay between patient and provider characteristics. A variety of patient characteristics determines whether patients make choices, are willing and able to choose, and how they choose. Patients take account of a variety of structural, process and outcome characteristics of providers, differing in the relative importance they attach to these characteristics.

Conclusions

There is no such thing as the typical patient: different patients make different choices in different situations. Comparative information seems to have a relatively limited influence on the choices made by many patients and patients base their decisions on a variety of provider characteristics instead of solely on outcome characteristics. The assumptions made in health policy about patient choice may therefore be an oversimplification of reality. Several knowledge gaps were identified that need follow-up research.

Keywords:
Choice behavior; Patient freedom of choice laws; Patient satisfaction; Healthcare providers; Quality indicators; Quality of healthcare; Healthcare reform; Review literature