UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Describing practices of priority setting and resource allocation in publicly funded health care systems of high-income countries Seixas, Brayan V.; Regier, Dean A.; Bryan, Stirling; Mitton, Craig, 1972-


Background: Healthcare spending has grown over the last decades in all developed countries. Making hard choices for investments in a rational, evidence-informed, systematic, transparent and legitimate manner constitutes an important objective. Yet, most scientific work in this area has focused on developing/improving prescriptive approaches for decision making and presenting case studies. The present work aimed to describe existing practices of priority setting and resource allocation (PSRA) within the context of publicly funded health care systems of high-income countries and inform areas for further improvement and research. Methods: An online qualitative survey, developed from a theoretical framework, was administered with decision-makers and academics from 18 countries. 450 individuals were invited and 58 participated (13% of response rate). Results: We found evidence that resource allocation is still largely carried out based on historical patterns and through ad hoc decisions, despite the widely held understanding that decisions should be based on multiple explicit criteria. Health technology assessment (HTA) was the tool most commonly indicated by respondents as a formal priority setting strategy. Several approaches were reported to have been used, with special emphasis on Program Budgeting and Marginal Analysis (PBMA), but limited evidence exists on their evaluation and routine use. Disinvestment frameworks are still very rare. There is increasing convergence on the use of multiple types of evidence to judge the value of investment options. Conclusions: Efforts to establish formal and explicit processes and rationales for decision-making in priority setting and resource allocation have been still rare outside the HTA realm. Our work indicates the need of development/improvement of decision-making frameworks in PSRA that: 1) have well-defined steps; 2) are based on multiple criteria; 3) are capable of assessing the opportunity costs involved; 4) focus on achieving higher value and not just on adoption; 5) engage involved stakeholders and the general public; 6) make good use and appraisal of all evidence available; and 6) emphasize transparency, legitimacy, and fairness.

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