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Management Science: The Healthcare Management Department

By Stefan Scholtes posted 12-08-2018 04:10


Dear colleagues,

Over the past decade, Management Science has seen a significant increase in papers that are of relevance to the healthcare industry. These papers were routed through different departments, including Operations Management, Information Systems, Innovation, Stochastic Models and Simulation, and Optimization. Since January 2018, the journal has a new Healthcare Management department to further increase the impact of Management Science papers on the healthcare industry. The department’s goal is to publish rigorously defended actionable new insights of direct relevance for healthcare leaders, including clinical leaders, managers, and policy makers.  

Which type of paper fits the new department?

As a result of the change, authors are sometimes confused where they should submit their paper. The existence of the new department does not mean that every paper that has a tenuous link with the healthcare context should be submitted to this department. The fundamental question is where the paper’s main contribution lies.

There are papers that use healthcare as a study context to address a general management challenge. These papers contribute to our understanding of a general management context, e.g., service management, R&D productivity, or team work, and are a better fit for the relevant disciplinary department in Management Science, e.g., Operations Management, Entrepreneurship and Innovation, or Organization.

Other papers make strong methodological contributions. They may have an interesting application in healthcare or draw on healthcare data but the core contribution is of a methodological nature. These papers should be submitted to the appropriate methodology department, e.g., Stochastic Models and Simulation, Optimization, or the new Big Data Analytics department.

Papers that are a good fit for the new Healthcare Management department start from a general problem that healthcare leaders - clinicians, managers or policy makers - struggle with. They remain close to this problem and offer an important insight into potential solutions, defended with the rigor that Management Science is renowned for. 

How to write a paper for the healthcare management department?

Most academic papers are written by academics for academics. They make a valuable contribution to an academic debate and are written for an academic audience and discussed at academic conferences. While we will continue to publish such papers in the Healthcare Management department, to stimulate academic debate, I would like to invite authors to consider an alternative paper format to facilitate impact generation.

Traditional “by academics for academics” papers are often too abstract in their concepts and too technical in their methods to be an attractive read for healthcare leaders themselves. They are unlikely to make a direct impact and need to be translated to be understood by practitioners. Some authors make a dedicated effort to translate their insights after publication, e.g., through aligned practitioner publications, blogs or other dissemination channels, but many don’t and rely on an indirect impact through the dissemination efforts of other academics, who cite their paper. Much of the societal value that we could and should create with our work is unfortunately lost in this translation gap. 

The leading science and medical journals do a better job at translating their findings into practice. Many papers in Science or the New England Journal of Medicine are accessible to non-specialists. This facilitates impact and increases the paper’s citation count. Importantly, these papers are not watered down methodologically, quite the contrary. These journals achieve their impact by separating the assessment of the paper’s rigor from the communication of the problem and the results and insights. The published paper focuses on communication, while the material that is necessary for in-depth assessment of the rigor is provided in an online supplement. These are papers assessed by specialists but written for generalists. I welcome such papers in the Healthcare Management department of Management Science. I would expect the length of these papers to be shorter than traditional Management Science papers, more in line with papers in Science or the New England Journal of Medicine. However, the online supplement is expected to be comprehensive and the review team will focus on the evaluation of the paper’s rigor based on the material provided in the online supplement.

What makes a good Fast Track paper for the Healthcare Management department?

Many of you will be aware of the new Fast Track submission route at Management Science. This channel offers fast processing for a short paper (5,000 words) with a particularly innovative and impactful idea. The editor-in-chief asks the editorial board to take risks when necessary and be flexible when appropriate with such papers. For the Healthcare Management department, Fast Track requires a novel insight with some evidence of a large potential impact in practice. In other words, the strength of the evidence may be weaker than is normally required as long as the idea is particularly innovative and the practical effect is likely to be large.

Suppose, for example, you have worked with a primary care organization on the design and implementation of an innovative early warning system for frail elderly who live at home. The system integrates a sensor-based dynamic risk scoring tool with a fast nursing response. You are now evaluating the effect of the new system and early hospital data shows that emergency bed days for this organization’s frail elderly patients have dropped by 10%, with no significant change of emergency bed days for other patients. This is a tremendous success for your partner organization – and it would be the nucleus of a typical Fast Track paper in the Healthcare Management department. Hospital managers need to know this urgently because almost all hospitals around the world wrestle with capacity problems. A 10% reduction of frail elderly emergency bed days would make a very important and life-saving difference to patients who are in urgent need of elective procedures, such as cancer surgery,  and whose hospital appointments get delayed when frail elderly patients block hospital beds. The urgency to publish the paper is a consequence of the observed effect size, even though the evidence is based on a relatively short time frame of data.

I hope you find these clarifications helpful and look forward to receiving your submission to the new department.

Stefan Scholtes
Department Editor Healthcare Management
Management Science