DCE are a family of questionnaire-based methods to statistically estimate how respondents value different aspects as of services.
The basic approach is to ask study subjects (participants) to choose between pairs of hypothetical options with different characteristics. Each option is described according to the same attribute categories but the levels of these attributes are varied across options. From statistically examining which choices are made from a carefully designed series of such choices, the relative value of the characteristics can be estimated. This can be used to calculate the substitution rate among these or the probability of service popularity.
DCEs start with the premise that care services, treatments, products, etc. can be described by their characteristics (attributes) and how much an individual values these depends upon these characteristics. Which characteristics are included in the study will depend on what is relevant to the decision.
As an example, for medicines attributes can be: how often it is taken (frequency), how it is taken (pill, self-injection, injection by nurse), possible side-effects or severity of side-effects, duration of treatment, etc. Treatment effectiveness, risk, monetary cost, time aspects and care setting aspects are common characteristics to include in DCEs if relevant.
These DCE approaches get respondents to reveal their valuations through their decisions, rather than just to express them in difficult, abstract rating or ranking tasks or other questions. These have been shown to be easier to answer and better match how real decisions are made.
These studies are used to get the views of patients, medical staff, caregivers (family members), policy makers, the public, etc. Specifically, we are focused on issues in palliative and cancer care.