• Accounting;
  • Capacity Management;
  • Health Care;
  • Performance Measurement Systems


Capacity decisions involve trade-offs between the cost of capacity and the opportunity costs of lost sales. Accounting researchers posit that accounting performance provides sufficient information about these trade-offs and thus can be used to formulate simple rules to assist capacity decisions. Empirical research has not examined the role of accounting information in capacity investment decisions at the department level in a multiproduct firm in the presence of social costs. Empirical analyses using department-level data from California hospitals for the period 1998–2005 show that hospitals are more likely to make capacity investments in departments with high accounting performance. However, in the presence of demand variability, the association between accounting performance and capacity investment is attenuated because of the resulting increase in noise in accounting performance measures. Thus, the weight on accounting performance as a decision tool for capital investments reduces when there is demand variability. Another factor that reduces the weight on accounting performance is capacity utilization. Higher capacity utilization can lead to turning away or rerouting of patients to other hospitals and negatively impacts reputation and quality of care, which increases the hospital's social costs. Hence, hospitals do not require high accounting performance before investing in a department with high capacity utilization. This empirical evidence of the role of accounting performance in capacity investment decisions fills a gap in the capacity investment literature and furthers our understanding of the interactions between accounting performance and the operational determinants of firms’ capacity investment behavior.