The Role of Qualitative Research Methods in Discrete Choice Experiments: A Systematic Review and Survey of Authors
Vass C, Rigby D & Payne K.
Background. The use of qualitative research (QR) methods is recommended as good practice in discrete choice experiments (DCEs). This study investigated the use and reporting of QR to inform the design and/or interpretation of healthcare-related DCEs and explored the perceived usefulness of such methods. Methods. DCEs were identified from a systematic search of the MEDLINE database. Studies were classified by the quantity of QR reported (none, basic, or extensive). Authors (n = 91) of papers reporting the use of QR were invited to complete an online survey eliciting their views about using the methods. Results. A total of 254 healthcare DCEs were included in the review; of these, 111 (44%) did not report using any qualitative methods; 114 (45%) reported “basic” information; and 29 (11%) reported or cited “extensive” use of qualitative methods. Studies reporting the use of qualitative methods used them to select attributes and/or levels (n = 95; 66%) and/or pilot the DCE survey (n = 26; 18%). Popular qualitative methods included focus groups (n = 63; 44%) and interviews (n = 109; 76%). Forty-four studies (31%) reported the analytical approach, with content (n = 10; 7%) and framework analysis (n = 5; 4%) most commonly reported. The survey identified that all responding authors (n = 50; 100%) found that qualitative methods added value to their DCE study, but many (n = 22; 44%) reported that journals were uninterested in the reporting of QR results. Conclusions. Despite recommendations that QR methods be used alongside DCEs, the use of QR methods is not consistently reported. The lack of reporting risks the inference that QR methods are of little use in DCE research, contradicting practitioners’ assessments. Explicit guidelines would enable more clarity and consistency in reporting, and journals should facilitate such reporting via online supplementary materials.