Academic Medicine

Skip Navigation LinksHome > July 2013 - Volume 88 - Issue 7 > Allocating Limited Resources in a Time of Fiscal Constraints...
Academic Medicine:
doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e318294fb7e

Allocating Limited Resources in a Time of Fiscal Constraints: A Priority Setting Case Study From Dalhousie University Faculty of Medicine

Mitton, Craig PhD; Levy, Adrian PhD; Gorsky, Diane MBA; MacNeil, Christina CMA; Dionne, Francois PhD; Marrie, Tom MD

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Facing a projected $1.4M deficit on a $35M operating budget for fiscal year 2011/2012, members of the Dalhousie University Faculty of Medicine developed and implemented an explicit, transparent, criteria-based priority setting process for resource reallocation. A task group that included representatives from across the Faculty of Medicine used a program budgeting and marginal analysis (PBMA) framework, which provided an alternative to the typical public-sector approaches to addressing a budget deficit of across-the-board spending cuts and political negotiation. Key steps to the PBMA process included training staff members and department heads on priority setting and resource reallocation, establishing process guidelines to meet immediate and longer-term fiscal needs, developing a reporting structure and forming key working groups, creating assessment criteria to guide resource reallocation decisions, assessing disinvestment proposals from all departments, and providing proposal implementation recommendations to the dean. All departments were required to submit proposals for consideration. The task group approved 27 service reduction proposals and 28 efficiency gains proposals, totaling approximately $2.7M in savings across two years. During this process, the task group faced a number of challenges, including a tight timeline for development and implementation (January to April 2011), a culture that historically supported decentralized planning, at times competing interests (e.g., research versus teaching objectives), and reductions in overall health care and postsecondary education government funding. Overall, faculty and staff preferred the PBMA approach to previous practices. Other institutions should use this example to set priorities in times of fiscal constraints.

© 2013 by the Association of American Medical Colleges


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