Examining the Scope of Multibusiness Health Care Firms: Implications for Strategy and Financial Performance


  • S. Noorein Inamdar

    1. Harvard University, 1 Soldiers Field Park #222, Boston, MA 02163
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    • Address correspondence to S. Noorein Inamdar, Ph.D. Candidate, Harvard University, 1 Soldiers Field Park #222, Boston, MA 02163.


Objective. Use theory and data to examine the scope of corporate strategies for multibusiness health care firms, also known as organized or integrated health care delivery systems.

Data Sources. Data are from the 2000 HIMSS Analytics Annual Survey of integrated health care delivery systems (IHDS), which provides complete information on businesses owned by IHDS.

Study Design. Scope defined as the breadth and type of businesses in which a firm chooses to compete is measured across seven separate business areas: (1) health plans, (2) ambulatory, (3) acute, (4) subacute, (5) home health, (6) other related nonpatient care businesses, and (7) external collaborations. Theories on strategy and organizational configurations along with measures of scope and a novel dataset were used to classify 796 firms into five mutually exclusive groups. The bases for classification were two competitive dimensions of scope: (1) breadth of businesses and (2) mix of existing core businesses versus new noncore businesses.

Data Extraction Methods. Unit of analysis is the multibusiness health care firm. Sample consists of 796 firms, defined as nonprofit organizations that own two or more direct patient care businesses in two or more separate areas across the health care value chain. Firms were clustered into five mutually exclusive organizational configurations with unique scope characteristics revealing a new taxonomy of corporate strategies.

Principal Findings. Analysis of the scope variables revealed five strategic types (along with the number of firms and distinguishing features of each strategy) defined as follows: (1) Core Service Provider (340 firms with the smallest scope providing core set of patient care services), (2) Mission Based (52 firms with the next smallest scope offering core set of services to underserved populations), (3) Contractor (266 firms with medium scope and contracting with physician groups), (4) Health Plan Focus (83 firms with large scope and providing health plans), and (5) Entrepreneur (55 firms with the largest scope offering both a core set of services and investing in a variety of new noncore business opportunities including many for-profit ventures). Significant differences in financial performance among the strategies were found when controlling for payer reimbursement conditions. Specifically, in an unfavorable condition with high Medicaid and low commercial insurance, the Mission Based strategy performs significantly worse while the Entrepreneur strategy performs surprisingly well, in comparison with the other strategies.

Conclusions. Findings suggest: (a) scope can be used to classify a large number of multibusiness health care firms into a taxonomy representing a small group of distinct corporate strategies, which are recognizable by senior management in the health care industry, (b) no single strategy dominates in performance across different payer profiles, instead there appears to be complementarities or fit between strategy and payer profiles that determines which firms perform well and which do not under different conditions, and (c) senior management of nonprofit health care firms are cross-subsidizing unprofitable patient care through ownership of nonpatient care businesses including for-profit ventures.