It is well established that health consumer opinions should be considered in the design, delivery, and evaluation of health services. However, the opinions of people with chronic conditions and their carers and what they actually consider as ideal healthcare is limited. The aim of this study is to investigate the healthcare priorities of consumers with chronic conditions and their carers, if there are differences between these two groups, and if priorities differ depending on geographical location.
The nominal group technique was used as a method to identify what is currently important to, or valued by, participants. This method was also particularly suited to learning about healthcare problems and generating important solutions, thereby helping to bridge the gap between research and policy. Recruitment was carried out via purposive sampling, with the assistance of community pharmacies, general practices, various health agencies, government and non-government organisations. A total of 11 nominal groups were conducted; five groups consisted predominantly of consumers (n = 33 participants), two groups consisted predominantly of carers (n = 12 participants) and four were mixed groups, i.e. consumers, carers, and both (n = 26 participants).
The findings suggested that to create a model of ideal healthcare for people with chronic conditions and their carers, appropriate and timely healthcare access was of paramount importance. Continuity and coordinated care, patient-centred care and affordability were equally the second most important healthcare priorities for all groups. When compared with other groups, access was discussed more frequently among participants residing in the rural area of Mount Isa. Compared to consumers, carers also discussed priorities that were more reminiscent with their caring roles, such as increased access and continuity and coordinated care.
Access to healthcare is the most important priority for people with chronic conditions and their carers. In the event of inappropriate access for certain groups, all other efforts to increase the quality of healthcare delivery, e.g. patient-centred care, may be pointless. However, health professionals alone may be limited in their ability to address the concerns related to healthcare access; structural changes by health policy makers may be needed.