Introducing New Priority Setting and Resource Allocation Processes in a Canadian Healthcare Organization: A Case Study Analysis Informed by Multiple Streams Theory

Document Type : Original Article


1 Centre for Clinical Epidemiology & Evaluation, Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada

2 School of Population and Public Health, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada

3 Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS, Canada

4 Strategy and Organizational Performance, IWK Health Centre, Halifax, NS, Canada

5 Faculty of Medicine, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS, Canada


In this article, we analyze one case instance of how proposals for change to the priority setting and resource allocation (PSRA) processes at a Canadian healthcare institution reached the decision agenda of the organization’s senior leadership. We adopt key concepts from an established policy studies framework – Kingdon’s multiple streams theory – to inform our analysis.
Twenty-six individual interviews were conducted at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax, NS, Canada. Participants were asked to reflect upon the reasons leading up to the implementation of a formal priority setting process – Program Budgeting and Marginal Analysis (PBMA) – in the 2012/2013 fiscal year. Responses were analyzed qualitatively using Kingdon’s model as a template.
The introduction of PBMA can be understood as the opening of a policy window. A problem stream – defined as lack of broad engagement and information sharing across service lines in past practice – converged with a known policy solution, PBMA, which addressed the identified problems and was perceived as easy to use and with an evidence-base from past applications across Canada and elsewhere. Conditions in the political realm allowed for this intervention to proceed, but also constrained its potential outcomes.
Understanding in a theoretically-informed way how change occurs in healthcare management practices can provide useful lessons to researchers and decision-makers whose aim is to help health systems achieve the most effective use of available financial resources.


Commentary Published on this Paper

  • Priority Setting Meets Multiple Streams: A Match to Be Further Examined?; Comment on “Introducing New Priority Setting and Resource Allocation Processes in a Canadian Healthcare Organization: A Case Study Analysis Informed by Multiple Streams Theory”

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