Lack of support structures in prioritization decision making concerning patients and resources: interviews with Swedish physicians

Elisabet Werntoft, Anna-Karin Edberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Aim: To investigate physicians' experiences in relation to prioritization and financing in health care in order to gain a deeper understanding of the reasons behind their standpoints. Methods: Eighteen physicians, seven women and eleven men, aged 30 to 69 years were interviewed and the text was analyzed using an inductive approach, also described as conventional qualitative content analysis. Results: Experience of setting healthcare priorities and difficult decision making differed widely among the physicians and seemed to be related to the number of years in professional practice. Their view of how resources should be allocated between disciplines/patients showed that they wanted politicians to make the decisions, with support from medical professions. The overwhelming impression of their reasoning showed that they lacked support structures for their decision making and could be understood under the following categories: Prioritisation, easier in theory than in practice, and Increasing costs threaten the Swedish welfare model. Conclusions: The findings of this study highlight the importance of practical national guidelines concerning vertical prioritization, also as an important measure to make prioritization more distinct and transparent. The physicians further had a need for tools to increase patients' awareness of their health. The findings of this study also showed that an awareness of the actual costs involved might increase the responsibility among both physicians and patients. The physicians' lack of support structures implies an urgent need for practical national guidelines, especially concerning vertical prioritization. This will also make prioritization appear clear and transparent for citizens.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)627-633
Number of pages6
JournalScandinavian Journal of Public Health
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2011

Swedish Standard Keywords

  • Nursing (30305)


  • Decision maker
  • Sweden
  • allocation
  • attitudes
  • costs
  • economy
  • emergency-department
  • health-care
  • healthcare priority
  • physician
  • qualitative content-analysis
  • recourse
  • views


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