Responses from hypothetical and experienced valuation tasks of health-related quality of life differ, yet there is limited understanding of why these differences exist, what members of the public think about them, and acceptable resolutions. This study explores public understanding of, opinions on, and potential solutions to differences between hypothetical versus experienced responses, in the context of allocating health resources.
Six focus groups with 30 members of the UK adult public were conducted, transcribed verbatim, and analysed using framework analysis. Participants self-completed the EQ-5D-5L, before reporting the expected consequences of being in two hypothetical EQ-5D-5L health states for ten years. Second, participants were presented with prior results on the same task from a public (hypothetical) and patient (experienced) sample. Third, a semi-structured discussion explored participants': (1) understanding, (2) opinions, and (3) potential resolutions.
Twenty themes emerged, clustered by the three discussion points. Most participants found imagining the health states difficult without experience, with those aligned to mental health harder to understand. Participants were surprised that health resource allocation was based on hypothetical responses. They viewed experienced responses as more accurate, but noted potential biases. Participants were in favour of better informing, but not influencing the public. Other solutions included incorporating other perspectives (e.g., carers) or combining/weighting responses.
Members of the UK public appear intuitively not to support using potentially uninformed public values to hypothetical health states in the context of health resource allocation. Acceptable solutions involve recruiting people with greater experience, including other/combinations of views, or better informing respondents.