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Health Econ. 2000 Apr;9(3):267-70.

The veil of experience: do consumers prefer what they know best?

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Social and Public Health Economics Research Group (SPHERe), Department of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of Sydney, Australia.


There is growing interest from health policy makers in eliciting consumer preferences for health care services. This is particularly the case when assessing the likely impact of innovations. Some people may be wary of innovations because they prefer the service they have previously experienced. Consumer preferences for an existing and a hypothetical new bowel cancer testing programme were measured using a discrete choice experiment questionnaire. The results showed that consumers had a statistically significant preference for the existing service (status quo) when all other factors remained constant. It suggested that consumers make decisions under a 'veil of experience'. Possible explanations for this result include the endowment effect, status quo bias and loss aversion. Future evaluations of health service innovation should be aware of this tendency to favour the status quo.

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