The healthcare research agenda: rigor and relevance

International Journal of Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Marketing

ISSN: 1750-6123

Article publication date: 28 June 2011



Mukherjee, A. (2011), "The healthcare research agenda: rigor and relevance", International Journal of Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Marketing, Vol. 5 No. 2.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

The healthcare research agenda: rigor and relevance

Article Type: Editorial From: International Journal of Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Marketing, Volume 5, Issue 2

As in most applied disciplines, healthcare research faces a continuous tension between the demands for academic rigor and practical relevance. In a recent research paper presented at the 2011 Business and Health Administration Association Conference in Chicago, I and my co-author Kyungwon Lee content-analyzed each article published in four leading healthcare journals (International Journal of Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Marketing, Journal of Healthcare Management, Medical Care Research and Review and Healthcare Management Review) over the past four years. We found that the top three themes – quality of care; nursing retention and healthcare information technology adoption – have strong applied flavors while offering fertile ground for theory testing and empirical analysis. However, the majority of articles emphasized objective analysis while showing little effort to relate findings to practice. Others, in contrast, made practical recommendations, the basis for which was not always apparent. Combining these seemingly opposing ends of rigor and relevance is an important challenge to healthcare management research. A real solution, following dialectic theory (Engels, 1940), would be achieved by finding some balance between the two. The main problem we identified is typically in the research question itself that is posed in the research study. As we all know, the research question addressed in any study is the main factor that determines the usefulness of the study’s findings. Research articles published in scholarly healthcare journals often lack practical meaning, because the questions that were asked to start with lacked relevance. Asking research questions that are important to practice, while not making concessions in terms of rigor in developing theory and empirical evidence, would provide most value in healthcare research. The balance can be achieved by seeking relevance in the research question, and rigor in the method applied to answer the question.

This issue attempts to straddle this fine balance between rigor and relevance. While the first two articles make stronger theoretical and methodological contributions, special effort is made to relate the findings to specific case studies and examples. The third article presents interdisciplinary perspectives with secondary data, offering potential public policy implications.

The last-two articles address practical emerging market issues with respect to adoption of electronic healthcare, while both using primary data to answer the research questions. Thus, we make a conscious attempt in this issue to publish articles that have a good mix of rigor and relevance. Having close to equal proportions of the two in one article is still an elusive goal, but journals such as ours are consciously striving to achieve a healthy balance.

The first paper by Erin Cavusgil, Z. Seyda Deligonul and Roger Calantone, titled “Late entrant over-the-counter and prescription market entry strategies: an investigation in the pharmaceutical industry” applies ordinary least squares regression to explore the differential mechanism in achieving market success in the prescription (Rx) and over-the-counter (OTC) markets. They use Rx and OTC markets sales data and advertising expenditures for nine gastrointestinal drug products for 17-year period. The results show that late market entrants can still achieve market leadership regardless of existing challenges. Key implications for pharmaceutical marketing managers include an understanding of the differential mechanisms in achieving market success for late entrants in the Rx and OTC markets.

In “The effects of visually primed pharmaceutical advertising disclosure on attitudes and perceived CSR practices”, Alex Wang uncovers that visually primed disclosure has positive effects on consumers’ attitudes toward the disclosure and enhances consumers’ perceived CSR practices and attitudes towards the company. Strong practical implications emerge from this paper on the potential use of CSR practices in pharmaceutical marketing and communication campaigns. The article also promotes the effective management of advertising disclosures by reinforcing their communications through visual priming.

The third article titled “Health expenditure efficiency: implications for pharmaceutical marketing” by Peter Hilsenrath evaluates the efficiency of US healthcare in an international context by evaluating US healthcare spending and pharmaceutical marketing. Using secondary data, Peter Hilsenrath argues that US healthcare spending is inordinately high as a share of GDP within developed countries and this is associated with a relatively high share of private finance. But public sector finance is displacing private payment and this trend is especially pronounced for pharmaceuticals, potentially curbing use of pharmaceutical detailing and other forms of marketing. The limits of affordability are not well assessed and socio-economic institutions to facilitate decisions about present and future costs have yet to evolve.

The fourth article by Bahar Yasin and Hilal Özen, titled “E-health information search intentions of Turkish internet users”, explores how the consumers’ intentions to repeat e-health information search behavior are influenced by their perceived benefit, perceived quality and reliability of electronic health. A survey sample of 376 is employed and consumer data are analyzed using factor analysis and multiple regression analysis. The authors find out that health web sites are more often used as a complementary tool rather than self-diagnosing tool. Results of the study indicate that the personal health issues component of perceived benefit influences future health information search intention on internet. Relevant insights are offered for web site designers to concentrate on information needs of consumers especially on personal health issues to induce repeat e-health information search behavior.

In the last article “Factors influencing scope and acceptability of E-detailing as a pharmaceutical marketing communication tool in emerging economies like India: views of the company personnel”, Saikat Banerjee and Sampada Kumar Dash explore the factors influencing the scope and acceptability of E-detailing by pharmaceutical sales representatives to physicians. Based on a survey with pharmaceutical company personnel in India, managerial readiness, operational capabilities, audience acceptance and market accessibility were identified as the most important factors for acceptance of E-detailing. Other motivators are convenience mode of communication, brand acceptance in the market and a deep relationship development with target physicians. Practical implications of this study include a better understanding of the factors influencing scope and acceptability of E-detailing as an important marketing communication tool for pharmaceutical companies.

As always, I would like to thank all the editorial board members, authors and reviewers for their great contributions to the journal! A special word of thanks is due to the IJPHM Editorial Assistant, Kyungwon Lee, who will complete her assignment with this journal in June 2011. Kyungwon has worked with me over the past two years on the journal and has provided research-editing support for manuscripts. As the editorial assistant of IJPHM, Kyungwon Lee has offered valuable inputs and support to the journal and has helped me provide intellectual and academic leadership to the journal, refocus on the journal mission, promote the call for papers, expand the editorial board, empanel ad hoc reviewers, include the journal in scholarly and citation databases, decide on acceptance or rejection of manuscripts, write an editorial for each issue and provide direction on the future of the journal. She has also promoted the journal to prospective authors and reviewers, managed manuscript submissions, sent papers out for review for first and subsequent submissions, etc. She has corresponded independently and regularly with authors, reviewers, editorial board members and the journal publishing team with great responsibility. Kyungwon has also worked closely with the publisher (Emerald) and the editorial board to select the annual best paper, highly commended papers and best reviewer awards. As Kyungwon Lee completes her graduate studies and research, I would like to acknowledge her critical contributions in making IJPHM one of the leading journals in its field.

I hope you will find the articles in this issue interesting and thought-provoking.

Avinandan Mukherjee


Engels, F. (1940), Dialectics of Nature, Lawrence & Wishart, London

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