Empirical investigation of experimental design properties of discrete choice experiments in health care

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Journal Article
Health Economics, 2005, 14 (4), pp. 349 - 362
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Experimental design is critical to valid inference from the results of discrete choice experiments (DCEs). In health economics, DCEs have placed limited emphasis on experimental design, typically employing relatively small fractional factorial designs, which allow only strictly linear additive utility functions to be estimated. The extensive literature on optimal experimental design outside health economics has proposed potentially desirable design properties, such as orthogonality, utility balance and level balance. However, there are trade-offs between these properties and emphasis on some properties may increase the random variability in responses, potentially biasing parameter estimates. This study investigates empirically the design properties of DCEs, in particular, the optimal method of combining alternatives in the choice set. The study involves a forced choice between two alternatives (treatment and non-treatment for a hypothetical health care condition), each with three, four-level, alternative-specific attributes. Three experimental design approaches are investigated: a standard six-attribute, orthogonal main effects design; a design that combines alternatives to achieve utility balance, ensuring no alternatives are dominated; and a design that combines alternatives randomly. The different experimental designs did not impact on the underlying parameter estimates, but imposing utility balance increases the random variability of responses. Copyright © 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
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