Setting healthcare priorities in hospitals: a review of empirical studies
Priority setting research has focused on the macro (national) and micro (bedside) level, leaving the meso (institutional, hospital) level relatively neglected. This is surprising given the key role that hospitals play in the delivery of healthcare services and the large proportion of health systems resources that they absorb. To explore the factors that impact upon priority setting at the hospital level, we conducted a thematic review of empirical studies. A systematic search of PubMed, EBSCOHOST, Econlit databases and Google scholar was supplemented by a search of key websites and a manual search of relevant papers' reference lists. A total of 24 papers were identified from developed and developing countries. We applied a policy analysis framework to examine and synthesize the findings of the selected papers. Findings suggest that priority setting practice in hospitals was influenced by (1) contextual factors such as decision space, resource availability, financing arrangements, availability and use of information, organizational culture and leadership, (2) priority setting processes that depend on the type of priority setting activity, (3) content factors such as priority setting criteria and (4) actors, their interests and power relations. We observe that there is need for studies to examine these issues and the interplay between them in greater depth and propose a conceptual framework that might be useful in examining priority setting practices in hospitals.