Chinny Offor Ogunro
Director of Health Research, Centre for the Study of the Economies of Africa
Dissertation Title："Network Administrative Organizations: Improving the Performance of Health Care Networks in a Developing Country Context"
Network administrative organizations (NAOs) are a form of network governance where an external entity centrally manages the activities of firms participating in a network, including simultaneous management of multiple networks by the NAO. In this dissertation, I combine research on network governance with concepts adapted from literature on the resource-based view of the firm, trust, and organizational learning to theorize about how NAOs can improve network wide performance, how trust influences performance outcomes, and the effectiveness of different NAO improvement activities. I posit that, over time, a networked form of governance results in improved levels of performance under conditions where trust is initially absent and participants are unknown to one another. Further, I suggest that trust mediates this relationship in that the presence of the NAO increases levels of trust between network participants. Additionally, I show that certain improvement activities can be more effective than others at improving performance in a network, warranting a focus on those most effective activities. Overall, while NAOs act as disseminators of resources and capabilities to improve the performance of participating firms, the specific activities the network engages in and the trust amongst network participants mediate the performance of the NAO. To show this, I develop and test a series of hypotheses using a multi-method and multi-site field study of hospital networks that were created through groups of previously independent primary care hospitals connected through management under a single NAO.
Chapter 1 of this body of work provides an introduction, reviewing the motivation behind this work and providing an overview of the hypotheses to be explored in each chapter. Following this introductory chapter, in chapter 2, I conduct a study of the perceived performance of a NAO by six different networks under its management. I compare the performance outcomes at the network level over time and use results to understand variations among networks. Results show that NAO governance can improve network performance, and differences in performance among networks can be attributed to resource munificence and the complexity of network activities as experienced by each network. Participants within networks that were well-equipped with key resources and viewed network activities as less complex perceived the NAO as performing more favorably than less financially stable networks and those who regarded activities as more complex.
Following this, in chapter 3, I use interview and meeting data from before, during, and after the implementation of each network to develop a theory around how shared activities both directly impacts network performance and mediates the effect of trust on network performance. A qualitative assessment using case studies of each of the six networks is first performed to better understand the differences in how networks developed over time. Results from a survey of hospital personnel are used to determine the network-by-network performance of the NAO in terms of implemented quality improvement policies. Results from this indicate that moderate levels of trust between network participants and the NAO were associated with high performance outcomes, while low levels of trust between participants were associated with lower levels of network participation activities.
Chapter 4 of this dissertation explores the effectiveness of different types of quality improvement activities amongst network participants. Due to the financial constraints that are seen in the health sectors of most developing countries, certain activities should be prioritized over others when making cost-effectiveness decisions. This study explores how different features of improvement activities may be more effective than others. Data were collected from interviews and a related survey of hospital personnel, and performance was measured through the pre- and post- assessments of quality improvement activities by an external quality auditor. From a larger initial list based on improvement literature, eight quality improvement interventions were identified and implemented. Five aspects were identified as most helpful toward improvement, with the most beneficial aspects noted as particularly useful in transferring knowledge and information from the NAO to facility quality improvement teams.
Lastly, I consider the impact of these studies on the network governance and organizational learning literature and practice. When a NAO is put in place, but found to be ineffective for the needs of the network participants, the network may either avoid change and fail, or change its governance to a more shared and consensual form of governance. NAOs, given appropriate trust levels, can improve inter-organizational learning and future quality performance of hospitals in developing countries like Nigeria.
In a dynamically changing landscape, in order to improve performance, businesses often need to form groups and network ties to attain resources and capabilities that were previously inaccessible. My dissertation seeks to shed some light on the network governance characteristics that foster effective collaboration amongst formerly independent health businesses and lead to improved individual and group performance. This work identifies the underlying mechanisms that precipitate coordination and engender mutually beneficial collaboration through the sharing of resources and capabilities. Ultimately, it showcases that improved performance can be achieved through NAOs, highlights the significance of trust in ensuring network participants achieve network goals, and pinpoints specific activities that are implementable by the NAO which may be most beneficial.