Akron’s Children’s Hospital: Case Study

Executive Summary

Akron Children’s Hospital is one of the leading pediatric hospitals in Northeastern Ohio. This case study will examine the hospital’s background, offering an insight into its operations, facilities, and financial solvency. Furthermore, information will be introduced on the other competitive practices in the area, leading to the managerial problem that Akron Children’s Hospital is experiencing. The hospital requires reform to its operations and marketing strategy to differentiate itself from the competition and attract a higher number of patients.

The administration of Akron Children’s Hospital hired a team of researchers led by Marcus Thomas LLC. The team sought to conduct business analysis of the hospital as well as comprehensive market research to gain insight into the decision-making process of patients’ parents (since most patients are children) when selecting a hospital for acute care. It was determined that an observational study was necessary to collect valuable consumer data, including perceptions of the hospital and the criteria used to select it. The observation study had significant advantages with very few disadvantages. Researchers should be directed to be mindful that the hospital’s objective is to raise its quality of service and let the consumer know about it, rather than the commercialization aspect.

It was determined that the hospital should establish a brand value associated with its name that would create awareness and trust from patients. Focus groups showed that those who received treatment at the hospital were satisfied. Therefore, the public should be aware that the hospital’s brand means high quality of medical service. Meanwhile, a compelling advertisement should be increased to attract patients.

Akron’s Children’s Hospital Case Study

In a highly competitive health-care market, Akron Children’s Hospital requires reform to its management and brand in order to differentiate itself from other clinics in the area. It needs to determine its internal issues as well as identify the perceptions of its patients. The observational research outlined in this case study will aid in developing the positioning and key metrics to enhance the quality of Akron Children’s Hospital.

Hospital and Scenario Background

The location of Akron Children’s Hospital, Northeastern Ohio, is a highly competitive health-care market for children’s hospitals. There are other large and high-profile hospitals in the area, including Akron’s main competitors Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital and the Cleveland Clinic. Rainbow Babies is nationally ranked in 8 pediatric specialties and admits 155 children daily (U.S. News, n.d.).

Akron’s Children’s Hospital was built in 1890 and established itself as a leading pediatric healthcare provider in the region. It maintains approximately 253 beds and has over 30 areas of practice and expertise in medical and surgical care for children. It offers the most innovative medical to children of all ages, including skin transfers and intra-operative MRI for brain tumor removal. The hospital offers high quality of care through the use of modern technology and equipment.

Although Akron has established itself as a leader in medical services and excellence, it continues to lose out to its competitors in core areas of the market. These include patient visitation rates and available bed space. If the hospital’s commitment to quality and advanced healthcare for children is conveyed adequately, there should be an increase in patient flow and public awareness. Akron Children’s Hospital requires a significant reform in order to revive its brand and differentiate the facility from competitors. To reestablish its top position in the health market, the hospital needs to expand its business and influence.

Management-Research Question

A management-research question hierarchy is commonly utilized in business research to identify and address an issue correctly. It consists of six unique stages including management dilemma, management question, research questions, investigative questions, measurement questions, and management decisions (Cooper & Schindler, 2013). The research process is triggered when a management dilemma creates the need for a solution or decision. It is a sequential process of question formulation to deeply investigate an aspect of operations.

Management Dilemma

A highly competitive healthcare market in Northeastern Ohio is causing the Akron Children’s Hospital to endure a drop in the number of patients and financial losses. It is unclear which core strategies or management decisions are causing competitors to experience more success and why fewer parents are choosing Akron as their hospital of choice.

Management Questions

How can Akron Children’s Hospital set itself apart from the competition? What characteristics of the hospital impact patient decision-making and selection of medical services? How can Akron promote its advanced technology and high-quality medical service to the market? How can a higher number of patients be attracted to the hospital? The main purpose of this stage is to analyze the hospital itself to identify its individual characteristics and benefits.

Research Questions

Do consumer choices correlate with emotional drivers and perceptions of parents about the hospital? What are the index perceptions of Akron Children’s Hospital in the healthcare market? What is the satisfaction rate of patients and families at the hospital and what factors are impacting it? The purpose of this stage would be to explore the general market sentiments and how they impact patient rates.

Investigative Questions

How do parents decide which hospital to select when children are in need of acute care? Are there quality, financial, or any other influential factors at play during this decision-making? What primary services or activities attract patients in the process of diagnosis and treatment? This stage is based on a more in-depth perspective of tracking patient needs.

Measurement Questions

What differentiates Akron Children’s Hospitals from other facilities? How can emotional reactions be observed from parents and patients during visits? Patient satisfaction should be assessed in correlation with treatment. Other aspects such as waiting time, discharge time, and financial costs should be measured.

Management Decisions

Dr. Marcus Thomas highlighted that Akron Children’s Hospital requires a unique and compelling brand that could be used to differentiate itself in marketing. The hospital can provide a high quality of care, but the parents of children need to be aware of that. Various channels of advertising need to be considered for the promotion of the value that Akron can deliver to its customers. Furthermore, there needs to be improvement in the treatment of specific groups of children by expanding the number of specialties the hospital can offer.

Observation Study

The focus of the study is for the Marcus Thomas LLC to observe the patients, parents, and physicians during the care process, including assessment, diagnosis, and treatment. Other care processes such as regular checks ups, emergency room visits, and surgery preparation are important as well. It is critical to observe the emotional and satisfaction factors that patients and families may exemplify.

Advantages

There are numerous advantages to conducting an observational study. The research will provide an informative understanding of patient needs and perspectives, including emotional factors and behavioral factors. The research will help to formulate a rational and logical explanation of the managerial issue of Akron Children’s Hospital. It will provide valuable information and results that will help hospital management to formulate their decision-making. Furthermore, a detailed description of a focus group will be identified. This group can be targeted on the market by advertisements to provide more value to any promotions.

Disadvantages

The disadvantage of the observational study is that it is focused significantly on commercialization rather than improving the quality of medical care and service. Research is focused on parental perceptions, the hospital’s position on the market, and its branding value proposition. While these hold some importance, it may be unethical to some extent since the hospital should focus on enhancing treatment rather than commercialization.

Directing Researchers

The researchers should be directed to observe two critical factors: hospital services and patient emotional reactions. Hospital specializations and services should be determined to compare them with market demands and their rankings nationally. The hospital selection process should be identified, including criteria for acute care and hospitalizations, as well as the reason why families choose this specific facility. As this is a children’s hospital, parents are ultimately the decision-makers in bringing the patients. Researchers should strive to analyze the parent’s emotions and perceptions. Focus group surveys can be conducted to determine perceptions of the hospital’s history, services, and advertising.

Brand Promise

Similar to commercial businesses, branding is vital in the healthcare industry. It creates a recognizable identity and characteristics that patients associate with the facility. For healthcare and treatment, it is critical for patients to respect the brand as they entrust their health to the hospital. A brand is a valuable aspect not only for market and commercial purposes, but also to build relationships with patients and other stakeholders in this sector. A competent brand helps to create awareness, trust, attract top talent, and generate higher profits. In healthcare, the brand name is essentially a promise to the consumer and the patient maintains certain expectations from it, ranging from treatment outcomes to the core experience (Inkwell Global Marketing, 2017).

Therefore, healthcare branding must answer the question of the patient why they must choose your hospital. However, unlike businesses relying on new products, hospitals must rely on different marketing strategy, comprehensive and long-term. The brand must be a positioning aspect which outlines both the process and decision-making capabilities of management. Furthermore, some aspects of brand value include differentiation, credibility, compelling, exclusivity, and comprehension (Kemp, Jillapalli, & Becerra, 2014).

The conducted observation study research revealed that patient’s hospital-choice decisions were made based on the availability of high-level medical technology and capabilities. Researchers experienced that patients were satisfied with their care at some of the hospital’s specialized facilities. Furthermore, the focus group determined that the criteria for acute care were the primary reason for hospital selection to treat major illnesses. This is conclusive with scholarly studies on the matter. Drevs (2013) states that consumers rarely use quantitative comparison tools available to the public. Rather, there is an inherent reliance on the stereotypical content model which builds trustworthiness based on perceptions of competence and hospitality.

Ethical Issues

The hospital should maintain full transparency of their efforts and observational study to avoid any potential violation of patient rights, especially since this a children’s facility. The commercialization of the project presents its concerns since treatment should be focused upon first. Any instances of preferential treatment for patients with higher income or those who have donated should be avoided. Furthermore, in attempting to surpass competition through marketing, efforts should not be made to discredit other high-quality hospitals in the area.

Discussion

The Akron Children’s Hospital case study demonstrates an objective of the hospital to become more profitable and efficient in compromising its values and mission statement. As the community and patients rely on the hospital, any changes in management direction and marketing strategies should not ultimately impact the patient experience in a negative manner. The hospital should seek to enhance its quality of care and service and separating themselves from any competition in this manner. It should adhere to the aspect of its mission statement, “whether it’s investing in new research, designing our facilities, or simply making our equipment kid-sized, everything we do is for our kids and their families” (Akron Children’s Hospital, n.d.). By creating value for the hospital’s core patients and spreading that information through competent and credible marketing, Akron Children’s Hospital will be likely to rise above its competitors due to its superb reputation.

Conclusion

Akron Children’s Hospital required to identify the issue causing it to lag behind the competition in the healthcare market. The management-research question hierarchy helped to identify and resolve the business management problem by focusing on the problem step by step. An observational study helped to provide a comprehensive overview of the perceptions of patients and where the hospital needed to improve. Recommendations consist of creating an effective marketing plan, improved service delivery, and implementing highly innovative medical technologies and procedures.

References

Akron Children’s Hospital. (n.d.). For family members or patients. Web.

Cooper, D.R., & Schindler, P. (2013). Business research methods (12th ed.). New York City, NY: McGraw-Hill Education.

Drevs, F. (2013). How patients choose hospitals: Using the stereotypic content model to model trustworthiness, warmth and competence. Health Services Management Research, 26(2-3), 95-101. Web.

Kemp, E., Jillapalli, R., & Becerra, E. (2014). Healthcare branding: Developing emotionally based consumer brand relationships. Journal of Services Marketing, 28(2), 126-137. Web.

Inkwell Global Marketing. (2017). The importance of branding in the healthcare industry to attract and retain patients. Web.

U.S. News. (n.d.). Rainbow babies and children’s hospital. Web.