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Open Access Research article

Investigating preferences for support with life after stroke: a discrete choice experiment

Christopher R Burton1*, Emily Fargher2, Catrin Plumpton2, Gwerfyl W Roberts1, Heledd Owen1 and Eryl Roberts3

Author Affiliations

1 School of Healthcare Sciences, College of Health and Behavioural Sciences, Bangor University, Bangor, Gwynedd LL57 2EF, UK

2 Centre for Economics and Policy in Health, Bangor University, Bangor, UK

3 National Institute for Social Care and Health Research Clinical Research Centre, Bangor, UK

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BMC Health Services Research 2014, 14:63  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-14-63

Published: 8 February 2014

Abstract

Background

There is little evidence of service user preferences to guide the commissioning and improvement of services that support life after stroke. We report the first investigation of patients’ and family carers’ preferences for community services after stroke using a discrete choice experiment (DCE).

Methods

Two workshops with patients and family carers (n = 8) explored stroke experiences, identifying attributes important in shaping views about service design, and piloted data collection strategies. Attributes were group versus individual support; service provider; additional support for social and leisure activities; and the total time required to access services. Patients and family carers were recruited six months post stroke-onset (mean 331 days) from four stroke services, and invited to participate in the DCE. Patients’ general health (EQ5D) and functional dependence (Barthel Index) were also assessed. Of 474 eligible patients, 144 (30%) expressed an interest in the study, and 80 (56%) of these completed the survey questionnaire. 34 of 74 (46%) family carers recruited through patients completed the DCE.

Results

All four attributes were significant in shaping patients preferences for stroke support service delivery (p < 0.05), confirming the interpretation of workshop findings. Patients prefer help and support for emotional needs, communication problems and physical difficulties to be provided on an individual basis; and to be offered additional social and leisure activities that they are able to attend on their own. Patients would appear to prefer that voluntary organisations do not provide these services, although this may be linked to lack of experience of these services. Family carers would prefer help and support in their caring role on a one-to-one basis. Whilst health related quality of life is associated with preference for format of service, results were relatively consistent across sub-groups, with the exception of time since stroke, where social and leisure activities had a greater impact on preferences of established service users.

Conclusions

The data provide unique insights into how preferences for community services that support life after stroke are shaped. This information can be used to inform both service re-design, and barriers to implementation that will need to be accounted for in policy shifts towards a more mixed economy of service provision.