A Case Study of Akron Children’s Hospital

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When companies are faced with a particular dilemma, they seek the use of business research to identify and find a solution that will resolve the dilemma. The dilemma may be one that is easily recognized or it may be one where a specific hypothesis cannot be easily identified and therefore a process called observation is necessary to drill down and determine exactly where research efforts should be placed (Cooper & Schindler, 2008, online case). In the case of Akron Children’s Hospital, located in a highly competitive area of Northeast Ohio, the hospital was seeking to differentiate its medical facility from two others in the area.

The other two nationally recognized hospitals were a rainbow babies and Children’s Hospital and the Cleveland clinic. Both of these facilities had earned reputations which found them listed in US News and World Report and Child magazine respectively (Cooper & Schindler, 2008, online case). It was the desire of Akron children’s hospital to separate and distinguish itself and allows its reputation to be known in that same area and as such it sought out using business research utilizing communication partner Marcus Thomas LLC to complete this task (Cooper & Schindler, 2008, online case).

The initial question that needed to be addressed was how we gain an understanding of how and why parents come to the decision of where they take their child when dealing with an acute care situation. Akron wanted to know what went into parent’s decision-making process, why did they choose a particular hospital for another and what other information could be gathered from their decisions. In order to arrive at the necessary information to make an analysis and observational study was going to have to be put together with an attempt to understand the attitudes and emotions that help them to make the choice of which facility they will use.

To understand this differentiation, Marcus Thomas LLC utilizes three research methods. The first method was observational, the second was focus groups and the third, survey. Their ultimate goal was to let the people speak without scripts and direction (Marcus Thomas, 2010). I will analyze each of the three methods as to their use in the research and their results. In order to get at the emotional level of why a particular facility was used, phase 1 and detailed and observational analysis that would allow the researcher to shadow the players involved, e.g. , the doctor, the parents, and the patient’s.

Researchers had received permission to shadow these players through every step of their visit and treatment videotaping everything so it could later be used in an analysis. Researchers followed the parties as if they were attached to the hip of each. They spent days and days in the hospital observing all encounters, watching all activities, and listening to every interaction watching every emotion as it was experienced.

Researchers noted how physicians talk to parents, how they talk with their child patients, how the staff interacted with the parents and the patient’s, and every conceivable interaction was recorded leaving nothing out as being deemed unimportant or irrelevant (Cooper & Schindler, 2008, video and online case). For this phase of the study, observation provided the best way of understanding how people thought, how they reacted during discussions involving medical diagnoses and treatment, and how interaction was between the patient and staff members during visits whether routine or doing surgical procedures just to name a few.

By listening to, watching, and recording things that are usually covered under privacy laws, the door was opened for the most intimate of interactions to be revealed to others. Using this method of observation and their attempt to differentiate themselves from the other hospitals was a very smart move by Marcus Thomas LLC because it exposed what everyone wonders; how will I be treated and what will I experience. The documenting of all the interactions opens the door for potential customers to understand how their hospital stays would proceed.

Observing how care was given and how patient’s parents were treated hits at the core of human emotion. It’s already difficult for parents to deal with their children having illnesses and when they can understand how they will be treated undoubtedly will aid in their decision as to the facility they will choose. These observational methods would uncover a lot of qualitative information from individual experiences expressed by those being shadowed. Phase 2 of the research entailed putting together focus groups. There would be 120 min.

focus groups that were convened in three markets of northern Ohio. One of the Markets was where the Children’s Hospital was located and the other two were located in areas of potential growth. Marcus Thomas ensured that all the participants were parents who had children that were between the ages of one month and 18 years and that all the parents had experienced an acute care incident which required them to stay in the hospital for three consecutive days. Additionally half of the other folks were committed to either cardiology or cardiac surgery hematology neurology and other departments.

In total there were 25 parents that participated in one of the three studies most of the participants were females between the ages of 25 and 54. Their income ranges were from household lesson 35,000 to those between 50 and 100,000 and all were giving $75 incentive to participate (Cooper & Schindler, 2008, online case). With these focus groups researchers wanted to learn how parents felt about the hospitals and they wanted to know how parents feel about the selection process.

These focus groups would discuss what the criteria were in the parents to get the sources of information and why did they rely upon the information they did to seek out a provider for major illness (Cooper & Schindler, 2008, online case). By putting together these focus groups the researchers wanted to know from people who are already had a hospital experience why they chose the facility that they did and what were their experiences while at that facility.

They conducted these three groups with different participants so as to gain a broader understanding from people of various backgrounds as to the reasons certain hospitals were chosen over another. This was an excellent move in that it ensured that a wide representation of people and ideas would be represented and heard from. A focus group from one area would have been to narrow. From this part of the survey, researchers collected both qualitative and quantitative data i. e. feelings and hard data.

Phase 3, the last of the research methods, consisted of telephone surveys seeking information of the lifestyles and health care decision-makers was conducted between July and August. The sample population consisted of 154 high acuity respondents who had a child that was in the hospital for three or more nights. In this particular survey it was found that 42% of the participants had a prior experience with Akron children’s (Cooper & Schindler, 2008, online case). Additionally most of those surveyed were female and they all came from various ages, income levels, and educational levels.

During the survey’s respondents were asked to evaluate the Akron’s children’s, Cleveland clinic children’s, and Rainbow Babies and Children on a range of issues that included their understanding of the hospital, the messaging of the hospital, the preferences for the different specialties, factors influencing their selection, and which hospital they preferred and what were the sources. They were also asked about their knowledge of the hospital positioning and branding promises and how all parents interpret all this data (Cooper & Schindler, 2008, online case).

A review of the attached questionnaire that was used in the survey revealed that the researchers were seeking to find out what type of information parents had been exposed to whether it was from media via TV commercials or radio and what was their awareness of the different specialties that were provided at different hospitals. Overall it appeared that the surveys were really drilling down to determine the level of knowledge the respondents had concerning the particular hospitals and how it played a part in which hospital they would choose to bring their child for treatment.

The surveys would provide qualitative as well as quantitative information that would prove useful in their final project of producing a campaign. Upon completion of the three phases Marcus Thomas LLC was able to analyze all the data that they had received an order to put together an advertising campaign that would separate Akron children’s from the other facilities (Marcus Thomas, 2010). There were three television and radio commercials that were put together that allowed viewers to look into the lives of Akron children’s patients and their parents as they were actually at the facility facing various medical dilemmas.

The footage that was put together gave first-hand accounts of all the important data integrated into interaction between physician’s, parents, and patients. This real-life drama expose was presented in such a way that anyone considering Akron Children’s Hospital could see and feel what it was like to interact with physicians and staff from the time they entered the facility, through whatever procedure they went through, to the times they laughed or cried all from a bird’s eye view. The only other way for a viewer to experience such reality would be for them to be there themselves.

That last statement represents the intent of the video clip; to show the viewer what their potential experience would be like when they brought their child to Akron Children’s Hospital. Although the footage did not compare the treatment against the other two hospitals what it did was let the viewer know exactly how they would feel and what they would experience by coming to Akron. In that respect the research was successful, in that phase one, the observational study was unable to uncover the raw emotions that were felt by parents and patients and to see how physicians handle dealing with each of the parties.

That information opened the door for phase two and three of the study to find out what was important in choosing the facility since the experiences were going to be so personal and sometimes devastating. The information from phase two and three are responsible for revealing the experiences of persons who had previously visited one of the hospitals and these experiences were received from persons with diverse backgrounds in the focus group and respondents of the surveys.

In conclusion, Akron Children’s Hospital and their endeavor to differentiate themselves from the other hospital did nothing substantially different in practices or procedures but by the fact that their commercials showed the intimate side of their hospitals patience experiences, they connected with parents who during a time of great stress, seek out the best treatment and facilities to take their child patients. Presenting themselves as being compassionate and not commercial makes the viewer see themselves as if they were in that situation.

Using observation allowed researchers the ability to determine what’s truly important for parents and formulate a hypothesis and subsequent study methods. Phase two contained focus groups that were assembled to address all the issues involved in determining what’s important to a parent in determining the facility and phase three asked questions concerning the respondents exposure via prior commercial ads (as did phase two) and how they viewed Akron Children’s Hospital.

Completion of those three phases was enough to increase bed visits to Akron simply from the emotions that would be felt while viewing the video. Akron did not have to sell viewers on how good their hospital was; they simply had to allow potential parents and patients to experience their stay via someone else that was like them and from that they saw how good service was. The research enabled Akron to relate to each potential customer by exposing what they do every day.

It not only helped their image in the area where they were located but also in the other potential business areas. Research was directly responsible for the increase in bed occupation and in the image earned by Akron as they successfully differentiated themselves against the competition. A story in the New York Times wrapped up the whole venture noting that it’s a new approach by hospitals to advertising where hospitals are not just transparent but invisible because they are seen only in subtitles (Newman, 2009).

Reference:

  • About Us (2010), Akron Children’s Hospital, Retrieved from http://www. akronchildrens. org
  • Cooper D. & Schindler P. (2008), Business Research Methods, 10th Ed, McGraw-Hill Irwin, pp 200-6, Video, Case Study – http://highered. mcgraw-hill. com/sites /0073401757/student_view0/cases. html
  • Newman, A. (2009)New York Times, retrieved from http:// www. nytimes. com/2009/05/04/business/media/04adco. html? _r=2
  • Work (2010), Marcuthomas, retrieved from http://www. marcusthomasllc. com.

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