Quantifying Priorities in Health Care - Transparency or Illusion

Penelope Mullen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

28 Citations (Scopus)


Explicit priority setting in healthcare, which often involves multiple criteria and value judgements, has come to prominence in a number of different healthcare systems over the past decade. Drawing on the results of a survey of priority setting in practice in the UK National Health Service, this paper analyses issues associated with quantification in priority setting, focusing on techniques for eliciting and aggregating values, the criteria and form of models used and their application in priority setting. The findings reveal a clear focus on equity, a strong concern to demonstrate openness, consistency and transparency in priority setting-leading to greater use of explicit multi-criteria models-and a notable focus on the quality of 'evidence'. However, reported difficulties in weighting over-long lists of non-commensurate and overlapping criteria, the inclusion of inappropriate criteria, and attributes of the form of models employed, lead to the conclusion that the implications of the methods are not always appreciated, the resulting priority 'scores' sometimes misunderstood and, in some cases, the concern for transparency and explicitness appears to outweigh concern for methodological understanding-leading to an illusion of transparency.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-58
Number of pages12
JournalHealth Services Management Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2004


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