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Eliciting patient views on the allocation of limited healthcare resources: a deliberation on hepatitis C treatment in the Veterans Health Administration.
Waljee AK, Ryan KA, Krenz CD, Ioannou GN, Beste LA, Tincopa MA, Saini SD, Su GL, Arasim ME, Roman PT, Nallamothu BK, De Vries R. Eliciting patient views on the allocation of limited healthcare resources: a deliberation on hepatitis C treatment in the Veterans Health Administration. BMC health services research. 2020 May 1; 20(1):369.
In response to the development of highly effective but expensive new medications, policymakers, payors, and health systems are considering novel and pragmatic ways to provide these medications to patients. One approach is to target these treatments to those most likely to benefit. However, to maximize the fairness of these policies, and the acceptance of their implementation, the values and beliefs of patients should be considered. The provision of treatments for chronic hepatitis C (CHC) in the resource-constrained context of the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) offered a real-world example of this situation, providing the opportunity to test the value of using Democratic Deliberation (DD) methods to solicit the informed opinions of laypeople on this complex issue.
We recruited Veterans (n = 30) from the VHA to attend a DD session. Following educational presentations from content experts, participants engaged in facilitated small group discussions to: 1) identify strategies to overcome CHC treatment barriers and 2) evaluate, vote on, and modify/improve two CHC treatment policies - "first come, first served" (FCFS) and "sickest first" (SF). We used transcripts and facilitators' notes to identify key themes from the small group discussions. Additionally, participants completed pre- and post-DD surveys.
Most participants endorsed the SF policy over the FCFS policy, emphasizing the ethical and medical appropriateness of treating the sickest first. Concerns about SF centered on the difficulty of implementation (e.g., how is "sickest" determined?) and unfairness to other Veterans. Proposed modifications focused on: 1) the need to consider additional health factors, 2) taking behavior and lifestyle into account, 3) offering education and support, 4) improving access, and 5) facilitating better decision-making.
DD offered a robust and useful method for addressing the allocation of the scarce resource of CHC treatment. Participants were able to develop a modified version of the SF policy and offered diverse recommendations to promote fairness and improve quality of care for Veterans. DD is an effective approach for incorporating patient preferences and gaining valuable insights for critical healthcare policy decisions in resource-limited environments.