Characterising Needs in Health Care Priority Setting

Abstract: The focus of this thesis is needs in the context of health care priority setting. The notion of needs has a strong standing in health care policy; however, how the idea should be understood more specifically and how it should guide decisions about priority setting remain contentious issues. The aim of this thesis is to explore how needs should be characterised in health care priority setting. This matter is approached by, first, exploring and developing the conceptual structure of health care needs, and second, discussing and suggesting solutions to normative questions that arise when needs are characterised as a distributive principle.In the first article, the conceptual structure of needs in general and health care needs in particular is explored, and it is argued that a specific characterisation of health care needs is required.In the second article, the notion of health care needs is explored in relation to preferences for health care within the context of shared decision-making. The paper further discusses a number of queries that arise in the intersection between what the patient needs and what the patient wants.The third article discusses how a principle of need should handle questions about interpersonal aggregation. The paper characterises a principle of need which strikes a reasonable balance between giving priority to the worst off and the distribution of benefits with regard to interpersonal aggregation.The fourth article discusses how a principle of need should account for the fact that patients often are badly off due to several conditions rather than one single condition. It is argued that how badly off patients are should be understood as a function of how badly off these patients are when all of their conditions (for which they need health care) are considered.The frame story provides the terminological, theoretical, contextual, and methodological background for the discussion undertaken in this thesis. The conclusions of the articles are brought together and the discussion extended in the concluding discussion by sketching a number of conditions of adequacy for the concept and principle of need relevant for health care priority setting.  

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