Healthcare planning forms a key instrument for decision makers to influence and direct health service provision, a function which is likely to become more important in the light of increasingly complex challenges that demand innovative solutions. How this is achieved best and in what circumstances remains however uncertain, given the variety of approaches adopted in different settings. This report aims to contribute to policy learning across countries from the diversity of healthcare planning approaches in Europe and elsewhere through developing and validating a framework for assessing, improving and enhancing healthcare planning. It identifies a set of criteria within three broad themes: "Vision", "Governance" and "Intelligence", which were then tested empirically through an in-depth analysis of four countries, using a case study approach: Germany, Austria, Canada (Ontario) and New Zealand.
The analysis provides important insights into how different systems approach healthcare planning, identifying common challenges, but also differences highlighting the very contextual nature within which healthcare planning as an instrument to directing health service provision sits. It will be important to understand the role and power of actors as powerful stakeholder interests are likely to undermine effective planning if there are no mechanisms in place that allow for consensus building and establish lines of accountability for implementation. Broad political goals, such as ensuring economic sustainability, have to be considered and weighed against the goals of healthcare planning. The framework developed presents a first step towards developing a tool for assessing.