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Creating advantages through franchising in healthcare: a qualitative, multiple embedded case study on the role of the business format.

BMC Health Serv Res 2014, vol. 14, issue 1

BackgroundBusiness format franchising is an organizational form that originates from the business sector. It is increasingly used in healthcare, being a promising organizational form for improving the competitiveness and efficiency of organizations, the quality of care, and the professional work environment. However, evidence is lacking concerning how these healthcare franchises should be designed to actually deliver the promised benefits. This study explores how the design of the central element in franchising, the business format (i.e., brand name, support systems, specification of the products and services), helps or hinders the achievement of positive results.MethodsA qualitative comparative embedded case study was conducted. The cases focused on three Dutch healthcare franchises providing mental healthcare, hospital care and care for the intellectually disabled. The data were collected through document analyses, observations, and 96 in-depth, semi-structured interviews with franchisors and unit actors (franchisees, unit managers, professionals). The interviews were recorded and transcribed verbatim. A conceptual model based on a systematic review of studies in other industries was used as an initial method for coding the data. New inductive codes were used to enrich and extend the analysis. The data were subjected to within-case and cross-case comparative thematic analyses.ResultsDifferent business format designs have different effects on results, as perceived by franchisors and unit actors. The analysis revealed how this variation in perceived effects can be explained by different dynamics with regard to system-wide adaptation, local adaptation, professionals¿ resistance to change, ease of knowledge sharing, bureaucracy, overhead, uniform brand presentation, accelerating effects and reliable performance levels. The analysis resulted in a new typology of four types of business formats, showing how combinations of business format elements facilitate or hinder the achievement of different types of results.ConclusionsPractitioners using healthcare franchising as a model to improve client-related, strategic, organizational and professional results should carefully consider how to design their business format in order to facilitate the achievement of desired results. The developed typology can be used as a starting point for these practitioners and as a basis for future scholarly research. Further quantitative research is recommended to confirm the results.

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