Priority setting and resource allocation in the Vancouver Island Health Authority

With limited resources in our health care system, difficult choices must be made in how health authorities prioritize services and allocate resources. Recent research has shown that decision-makers in health authorities face two sets of impediments in this task: a lack of skills in these processes, and an organizational culture in health administration that implicitly supports allocation based on historical patterns. Program budgeting and marginal analysis (PBMA) is a framework designed to assist decision-makers in weighing evidence from numerous sources to determine how resources might be allocated to improve health gain or to better meet other relevant criteria. To facilitate organizational adoption of PBMA as an alternative decision-making process, further research is required to develop strategies for implementation, as well as to drive key methodological aspects of the process. Craig Mitton is addressing these issues by applying PBMA across service areas in the Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA). While advancing key aspects of priority setting through the introduction of PBMA within VIHA, he is also facilitating skill-building among stakeholders in the application of the new decision-making process. He is also evaluating its implementation, which will not only refine the process for VIHA, but also contribute to the literature on priority setting in health organizations.