Background — The extent to which clinical and non-clinical factors impact on the waiting-list prioritization preferences of patients in the queue is unknown. Using a series of hypothetical scenarios, the objective of this study was to examine the extent to which clinical and non-clinical factors impacted on how patients would prioritize others relative to themselves in the coronary artery bypass surgical queue.
Methods — Ninety-one consecutive eligible patients awaiting coronary artery bypass grafting surgery at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre (median waiting-time duration prior to survey of 8 weeks) were given a self-administered survey consisting of nine scenarios in which clinical and non-clinical characteristic profiles of hypothetical patients (also awaiting coronary artery bypass surgery) were varied. For each scenario, patients were asked where in the queue such hypothetical patients should be placed relative to themselves.
Results — The eligible response rate was 65% (59/91). Most respondents put themselves marginally ahead of a hypothetical patient with identical clinical and non-clinical characteristics as themselves. There was a strong tendency for respondents to place patients of higher clinical acuity ahead of themselves in the queue (P < 0.0001). Social independence among young individuals was a positively valued attribute (P < 0.0001), but neither age per se nor financial status, directly impacted on patients waiting-list priority preferences.
Conclusion — While patient perceptions generally reaffirmed a bypass surgical triage process based on principals of equity and clinical acuity, the valuation of social independence may justify further debate with regard to the inclusion of non-clinical factors in waiting-list prioritization management systems in Canada, as elsewhere.
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