The impact of hospital attributes on patient choice for first visit: Evidence from a discrete choice experiment in Shanghai, China

Yun Liu, Qingxia Kong, Shan Wang, Liwei Zhong, Joris Van De Klundert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


The underutilization of primary care in urban China threatens the efficiency and effectiveness of the Chinese health system. To guide patient flow to primary care, the Chinese government has rolled out a sequence of health care reforms which improve the affordability, the infrastructure and workforce of the primary care system. However, these measures have not yielded the desired effect on the utilization of primary care, which is lowest in urban areas. It is unclear how the factors identified to influence facility choice in urban China are actually impacting choice behaviour. We conducted a discrete choice experiment to elicit the quantitative impact of facility attributes when choosing a health care facility for first visit and analysed how the stated choice varies with these attributes. We found that the respondents placed different weights on the identified attributes, depending on whether they perceived their condition to be minor or severe. For conditions perceived as minor, the respondents valued visit time, equipment and medical skill most. For conditions perceived as severe, they placed most importance on equipment, travel time and facility size. We found that for conditions perceived as minor, only 14% preferred visiting a facility over opting out, a percentage which would more than double to 37% if community health centres were maximally improved. For conditions perceived as severe, improvements in community health centres may almost double first visits to primary care, mostly from patients who would otherwise choose higher-level facilities. Our findings suggest that for both severity conditions, improvements to medical equipment and medical skill at community health centres in urban China can effectively direct patient flow to primary care and promote the efficiency and effectiveness of the urban health system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)267-278
Number of pages12
JournalHealth Policy and Planning
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Health care seeking behaviour
  • decision-making
  • health care utilization
  • health systems
  • hospitals
  • priority setting


Dive into the research topics of 'The impact of hospital attributes on patient choice for first visit: Evidence from a discrete choice experiment in Shanghai, China'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this