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Is franchising in health care valuable? A systematic review.

Health Policy Plan 2014, vol. 29, issue 2

BACKGROUND

Franchising is an organizational form that originates from the business sector. It is increasingly used in the healthcare sector with the aim of enhancing quality and accessibility for patients, improving the efficiency and competitiveness of organizations and/or providing professionals with a supportive working environment. However, a structured overview of the scientific evidence for these claims is absent, whereas such an overview can be supportive to scholars, policy makers and franchise practitioners.

METHODS

This article provides a systematic review of literature on the outcomes of franchising in health care. Seven major databases were systematically searched. Peer-reviewed empirical journal articles focusing on the relationship between franchising and outcomes were included. Eventually, 15 articles were included and their findings were narratively synthesized. The level of evidence was rated by using the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development, and Evaluation scale.

RESULTS

The review shows that outcomes of franchising in health care have primarily been evaluated in low- and middle-income countries in the reproductive health/family planning sector. Articles about high-income countries are largely absent, apart from three articles evaluating pharmacy franchises. Most studies focus on outcomes for customers/clients and less on organizations and professionals. The evidence is primarily of low quality. Based on this evidence, franchising is predominantly positively associated with client volumes, physical accessibility and some types of quality. Findings regarding utilization, customer loyalty, efficiency and results for providers are mixed.

CONCLUSIONS

We conclude that franchising has the potential to improve outcomes in healthcare practices, but the evidence base is yet too weak for firm conclusions. Extensive research is needed to further determine the value of healthcare franchising in various contexts. We advocate more research in other healthcare sectors in both low- and middle-income countries and high-income countries, on more types of outcomes with attention to trade-offs, and on what factors produce those outcomes.

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