Priority setting in healthcare: towards guidelines for the program budgeting and marginal analysis framework

Stuart J Peacock, Craig Mitton, Danny Ruta, Cam Donaldson, Angela Bate, Lindsay Hedden

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


Economists' approaches to priority setting focus on the principles of opportunity cost, marginal analysis and choice under scarcity. These approaches are based on the premise that it is possible to design a rational priority setting system that will produce legitimate changes in resource allocation. However, beyond issuing guidance at the national level, economic approaches to priority setting have had only a moderate impact in practice. In particular, local health service organizations - such as health authorities, health maintenance organizations, hospitals and healthcare trusts - have had difficulty implementing evidence from economic appraisals. Yet, in the context of making decisions between competing claims on scarce health service resources, economic tools and thinking have much to offer. The purpose of this article is to describe and discuss ten evidence-based guidelines for the successful design and implementation of a program budgeting and marginal analysis (PBMA) priority setting exercise. PBMA is a framework that explicitly recognizes the need to balance pragmatic and ethical considerations with economic rationality when making resource allocation decisions. While the ten guidelines are drawn from the PBMA framework, they may be generalized across a range of economic approaches to priority setting.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)539-552
Number of pages14
JournalExpert Review of Pharmacoeconomics and Outcomes Research
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2010


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