Application of economic principles in healthcare priority setting

Angela Bate, Craig Mitton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


In healthcare, resources are often insufficient to meet all claims on them. In this respect, resources are considered scarce and have to be managed by prioritizing between competing claims. Economics as a discipline explicitly addresses this reality by acknowledging resource scarcity. However, the extent to which economics actually influences such prioritizing decisions in healthcare is unclear. The purpose of this paper is to review the use of economics in priority setting decision making. We outline the key principles of economics as they apply to priority setting and review the methods reported in the literature with respect to these. We find that these methods, even economic methods (e.g., those typically used in conducting economic evaluations such as cost-effectiveness analyses) do not tend to explicitly incorporate economic principles. We argue therefore that these methods, when applied to the context of priority setting, are not sufficient and that what is required is a broader framework that can incorporate the output from economic methods yet also be pragmatically applicable. We then go on to present an alternative approach - namely program budgeting and marginal analysis. Finally, we put forward our case for using program budgeting and marginal analysis in priority setting practice and set out some future research challenges.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)275-84
Number of pages10
JournalExpert Review of Pharmacoeconomics and Outcomes Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2006
Externally publishedYes


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