Physician shortages in rural areas is a universal concern, and most countries face this challenge. Many attributes influence the physician preferences about the choice of working location. The aim of this systematic review was to investigate which attributes were included in discrete choice experiment studies and which of them valued the most by physicians.


The following databases were searched: PubMed, Embase, and Web of Science Core Collection. Further studies were retrieved from reference lists of included studies, and grey literature. Studies used discrete choice experiments methods to elicit preferences for working in the deprived area, focus on physicians or medical students, and published between 2000 and 2017 in the English language were included.


The literature search yielded 192 studies, of which 14 studies met inclusion criteria. The attributes and attribute levels were identified by literature review and qualitative research. The number of attributes varied from five to ten, and the most frequent number was six attributes. In most studies, maximum of sixteen different scenarios were given to the study samples. The “salary or income” attribute was the most important in fifty percent of the studies and the attributes related to “study and education” was at the next level.


Financial attributes are not the only significant attributes considered by the physicians for deciding where to practice, but also the other non-financial attributes are important. It is suggested that based on the economic, social and cultural conditions of each country, a specific incentive package, including a set of financial and non-financial incentives, is developed to attract physicians to the deprived areas.


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