Management accountants’ role and coercive regulations: evidence from the Italian health-care sector

Chiara Oppi (Department of Economics and Management, University of Ferrara, Ferrara, Italy)
Emidia Vagnoni (Department of Economics and Management, University of Ferrara, Ferrara, Italy)

Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management

ISSN: 1176-6093

Publication date: 22 April 2020



This paper aims to investigate the consequences of the coercive regulations for performance measurement and comparability that strengthened regional health authority’s control over organizations’ activities on management accountants’ relationship with clinician managers, who are the recipients of accounting information for decisional processes in health-care organizations. To achieve this aim, the research focuses on management accountants’ perception of their role and whether they perceive role conflict and role ambiguity.


A case study was undertaken in a public university hospital in the Emilia-Romagna region, Italy; 9 management accountants and 11 clinician managers were interviewed and secondary data analyzed.


Management accountants show low capabilities to support clinician managers’ decisional processes. Following the enactment of regulations, management accountants perform their role with a primary focus on functional responsibility. The focus on the provision of information to address regulations influenced management accountants’ capability to act as business partners in the organization. Because of the conflicting information needs from regulations and clinician managers, management accountants experience role conflict and ambiguity.

Research limitations/implications

The paper has implications for policymakers, underlining the consequences of strict regulations on management accountants’ role. It also emphasizes the importance of revising accounting techniques to satisfy both regional requirements and clinician managers’ needs for decision-making.


The article contributes to knowledge related to the role of management accountants in health care. It explores, in particular, the consequences of coercive regulations in health-care organizations, adding knowledge to a field that remains quite unexplored.



Oppi, C. and Vagnoni, E. (2020), "Management accountants’ role and coercive regulations: evidence from the Italian health-care sector", Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management, Vol. 17 No. 3, pp. 405-433.

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