To successfully tackle the problems with the underutilization of primary care in rural China, it is important to align resource allocation with the preferences of the rural population. However, despite growing interest in the factors influencing the rural population's choice of facility, it is unclear how much weight should be placed on these factors, especially under different scenarios of disease severity. In the first study to elicit quantified trade-offs among influential factors in choosing health care facilities, we carried out a discrete choice experiment (DCE) in rural China. We used a Bayesian efficient design to construct 36 choice sets, and then divided them into three blocks. Each block formed one version of questionnaire that contained 12 choice questions. Each question was assigned a hypothetical perceived severity scenario of either minor or severe disease. 559 Rural residents completed the DCE through face-to-face interviews in December 2017–March 2018. We used mixed logit models to analyze the choice data. The factors regarding the availability and affordability of a facility, such as visit time, travel time, and out-of-pocket cost, were highly valued. When the facilities changed simultaneously from the worst to the best case, a huge increase (from 4.8% to 66.5%) in the predicted choice probability of choosing to visit a facility was observed under perceived minor disease scenario, whereas there was no significant change under perceived severe disease scenario. Improvements to drug availability, medical professional skill and equipment in rural primary care system can induce potential medical care seeking, and redirect patient flow from higher level hospitals to primary level. Especially, township health centers, which provide service to the residents in rural communities, have great potential to be the ideal facilities for first-contact care.

Discrete choice experiment, China, Stated preferences, Health-seeking behavior, Rural health,
Social Science & Medicine
Health Services Management & Organisation (HSMO)

Liu, Y, Kong, Q, & de Bekker-Grob, E.W. (2019). Public preferences for health care facilities in rural China: A discrete choice experiment. Social Science & Medicine, 235C. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2019.112396