Document Type : Original Article
Division of Biomedical Ethics, Institute of Experimental Medicine, Christian-Albrechts-University of Kiel, Kiel, Germany
Department of Health, Medicine and Caring Sciences, Unit of Health Care Analysis, Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden
National Centre for Priorities in Health, Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden
NU Hospital Group, The Research and Development Unit, Trollhättan, Sweden
Institute of Medical Informatics and Statistics, University Hospital Schleswig-Holstein, Kiel, Germany
Institute of History and Ethics in Medicine, Technical University of Munich, Munich, Germany
Institute for Biomedical Ethics, University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland
Priority setting in healthcare that aims to achieve a fair and efficient allocation of limited resources is a worldwide challenge. Sweden has developed a sophisticated approach. Still, there is a need for a more detailed insight on how measures permeate clinical life. This study aimed to assess physicians’ views regarding (1) impact of scarce resources on patient care, (2) clinical decision-making, and (3) the ethical platform and national guidelines for healthcare by the National Board of Health and Welfare (NBHW).
An online cross-sectional questionnaire was sent to two groups in Sweden, 2016 and 2017. Group 1 represented 331 physicians from different departments at one University hospital and group 2 consisted of 923 members of the Society of Cardiology.
Overall, a 26% (328/1254) response rate was achieved, 49% in group 1 (162/331), 18% in group 2 (166/923). Scarcity of resources was perceived by 59% more often than ‘at least once per month,’ whilst 60% felt less than ‘wellprepared’ to address this issue. Guidelines in general had a lot of influence and 19% perceived them as limiting decisionmaking. 86% professed to be mostly independent in decision-making. 36% knew the ethical platform ‘well’ and ‘very well’ and 64% NBHW’s national guidelines. 57% expressed a wish for further knowledge and training regarding the ethical platform and 51% for support in applying NBHW’s national guidelines.
There was a need for more support to deal with scarcity of resources and for increased knowledge about the ethical platform and NBHW’s national guidelines. Independence in clinical decision-making was perceived as high and guidelines in general as important. Priority setting as one potential pathway to fair and transparent decision-making should be highlighted more in Swedish clinical settings, with special emphasis on the ethical platform.