Change in ownership among U.S. community hospitals has been frequent and, not surprisingly, remains an important issue for both researchers and public policy makers. In the past, investor-owned hospitals were long suspected of pursuing financial over other goals, culminating in several reviews that found few differences between for-profit and nonprofit forms (Gray, 1986; Sloan, 2000; Sloan, Picone, Taylor, & Chou, 2001). Nevertheless, continuing to the present day, several states prohibit investor-ownership of community hospitals. Conversions to investor-ownership are only one of six types of ownership change, however, with relatively less attention paid to the other types (e.g., for-profit to nonprofit, public to nonprofit). This study has two parts. We first review the literature on the various types of ownership conversion among community hospitals. This review includes the rate at which conversions occur over time, the relative frequency in conversions between specific ownership categories and the observed effects of conversion on hospital operations (e.g., strategic direction and decision-making processes) and performance (e.g., access, quality, and cost). Overall, we find that the impact of ownership conversion on the different measures is mixed, with slightly greater evidence for positive effects on hospital efficiency. As one explanation for these findings, we suggest that the impact of ownership conversion on hospital performance may be mediated by changes in the hospital's strategic content and process. Such a hypothesis has not been proposed or examined in the literature. To address this gap, we next study the role of strategic reorientation following hospital conversion in a field study. We conceptualize ownership conversion within a strategic adaptation framework, and then analyze the changes in strategy content and process across sixteen hospitals that have undergone ownership conversions from nonprofit to for-profit, public to for-profit, public to nonprofit, and for-profit to nonprofit. The field study findings delineate the strategic paths and processes implemented by new owners post-conversion. We find remarkable similarity in the content of strategies undertaken but differences in the process of strategic decision making associated with different types of ownership changes. We also find three main performance effects: hospitals change ownership for financial reasons, experience increases in revenues and capital investment post-conversion, and pursue labor force reductions post-conversion. Membership in a multi-hospital system, however, may be a major determinant of both strategy content and decision-making process that is confounded with ownership change. That is, ownership conversion may mask the impact of system membership on a hospital's strategic actions. These findings may explain the pattern of performance effects observed in the literature on ownership conversions.
Burns, L.R., Shah, R.J., Sloan, F.A. and Powell, A.C. (2009), "The impact of hospital ownership conversions: Review of the literature and results from a comparative field study", Savage, G.T. and Fottler, M.D. (Ed.) Biennial Review of Health Care Management: Meso Perspective (Advances in Health Care Management, Vol. 8), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 171-229. https://doi.org/10.1108/S1474-8231(2009)0000008011Download as .RIS
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