1. Bigelow, Barbara Ph.D., Co-editor
  2. Arndt, Margarete D.B.A., Co-editor

Article Content

At a recent academic conference, the studies presented data drawn from a wide variety of industries. They included, among many others, investment banking, auctions, colleges of continuing education, the chemical industry, the movie industry, baseball, and the hotel industry. In most of the sessions, the researcher's goal was to gain insights that could be applied to industries in general-whether about strategy or sense-making or negotiations. Typically, the session would begin with a description of the theory that guided the research, would continue with a discussion of the methods and the findings, and conclude with the implications for theory, research, and practice. Apologies were never made for the choice of industry, it was assumed that the industry provided an appropriate setting for scholarly investigation.


There was one notable exception. A researcher who gathered his data from hospitals began his talk by saying, "If you're not interested in health care, don't walk out." Even the researcher whose study was based on Martha Stewart Living Magazine did not start the session out by entreating people to stay, despite the fact that its demographics do not greatly overlap the demographics of the conference attendees.


What compelled this person to make such a statement was the assumption that the audience would think that nothing could be learned beyond the study's implications for hospitals. His extraordinary assumption has little basis in reality-research in hospitals has been used to generate theory (for example, negotiated order theory) and develop typologies that are applied across industries (for example, the Miles and Snow typology). Further, hospitals as well as other health care organizations provide fertile ground for studying issues of concern across industries-the creation and impact of institutional pressures, the management of a professional work force, governance, or the interplay of regulatory and competitive forces, just to name a few.


For some time we have studied the promotion of business practices in the hospital industry and pondered why solutions are so frequently sought from outside. Having learned over the years from the generalizable lessons from industries as diverse as funeral directors and baseball, it seems time to reassert the ability of the health care management research to inform others.


In this issue, two papers in addition to the Forum are offered. The first paper, by Jacqueline Zinn, Diane Brannon, Vincent Mor, and Theresa Barry, uses a contingency perspective to investigate how work is structured in two different contexts that varied on the basis of technology and process-outcome relationships but were similar on the basis of staffing. The theory enabled them to predict how work is differentiated. The second, by Melissa Succi-Lopez, Shoou-Yih D. Lee, and Jeffrey Alexander, examines the determinants of divestiture. In addition to finding support from previous studies that financial performance influences divestiture decisions, they identify three other factors: relative resource configuration, legitimacy, and integration. Finally, the Forum examines the creation, use and promotion of evidencebased research. This Forum includes the four papers presented at the Agenda Setting for Health Care Management Research held in January 2003, and is introduced by Anthony Kovner.


The research published in this issue has far reaching implications. Factors that influence divestiture decisions and the impact of technology and process-outcome relationships on the structure of work are of concern well beyond the hospitals and nursing facilities in which the research occurred. Similarly, the need to provide the research results in a timely and accessible manner to managers is not limited to health care.


There is much to be learned from health management research. First, we need to investigate better ways to disseminate research to the managers who can use it. As will be discussed in a future Forum, managers do not have the time or inclination to wade through lengthy theoretical discussions and descriptions of methodology in search of the "take-away." Second, people outside of health care need to be educated that health management research can also be industry neutral. There is as much if not more to be learned from studies conducted in health care organizations of, for example, divestiture or the structure of work as can be learned from baseball or Martha Stewart Living Magazine.


-Barbara Bigelow, Ph.D.




-Margarete Arndt, D.B.A.