• Physician shortage;
  • stated preferences;
  • discrete choice experiment

Introduction. The study aimed to quantify the preferences of young physicians for different attributes relevant to practice establishment in Germany.

Methods. Qualitative in-depth interviews of 22 physicians were conducted to identify relevant practice attributes. Based on this information, a questionnaire was developed containing a discrete choice experiment comprised of a “best–worst scaling” (BWS) task. It was mailed to a representative sample of 14,939 young physicians who were close to making a decision regarding practice establishment. Regression analysis was used to estimate utility weights quantifying physicians' preferences for practice attributes.

Results. Qualitative interviews identified six attributes: “professional cooperation,”“income,”“career opportunities of the partner,”“availability of child care,”“leisure activities,” and “on-call duties.” For the BWS task, 5,026 returned questionnaires were analyzed. Results indicated that a change in income led to the largest utility change compared with changes in other attributes. Additional net income to compensate the disutility of a rural practice as compared with an urban practice was 9,044€/months (U.S.$ 11,938). Yet, nonmonetary attributes such as on-site availability of childcare and fewer on-call duties would decrease the additional income required to compensate the disutility of a rural practice.

Discussion. The results offer quantifiable information about young physicians' preferences in establishing a practice. It can assist health policy makers in developing tailored incentive-based interventions addressing urban–rural inequalities in physician coverage.