Academic medical centers: A framework for strategic repositioning

Leon J Leach, The University of Texas School of Public Health


This study sought to understand the elements affecting the success or failure of strategic repositioning efforts by academic medical centers (AMC). The research question was: What specific elements in the process appear to be most important in determining the success or failure of an AMC.s strategic repositioning? Where success is based on the longterm sustainability of the new position. "An organization's strategic position is its perceptual location relative to others" (Gershon, 2003). Hence, strategic repositioning represents a shift from one strategic position within an environment to another (H. Mintzberg, 1987a). A deteriorating value proposition coupled with an unsustainable national health care financing system is forcing AMCs to change their strategic position. Where the value proposition is defined as the health outcome per dollar spent. AMCs are of foundational importance to our health care system. They educate our new physicians, generate significant scientific breakthroughs, and care for our most difficult patients. Yet, their strategic, financial and business acumen leaves them particularly vulnerable in a changing environment. After a literature review revealed limited writing on this subject, the research question was addressed using three separate but parallel exploratory case study inquiries of AMCs that recently underwent a strategic repositioning. Participating in the case studies were the Baylor College of Medicine, the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, and the University of Texas Medical Branch. Each case study consisted of two major research segments; a thorough documentation review followed by semi-structured interviews of selected members of their governance board, executive and faculty leadership teams. While each case study.s circumstances varied, their response to the research question, as extracted through thematic coding and analysis of the interviews, had a high degree of commonality. The results identified managing the strategic risk surrounding the repositioning and leadership accountability as the two foundational elements of success or failure. Metrics and communication were important process elements. They both play a major role in managing the strategic repositioning risk communication loop. Sustainability, the final element, was the outcome sought. Factors leading to strategic repositioning included both internal and external pressures and were primarily financial or mission based. Timing was an important consideration as was the selection of the strategic repositioning endpoint. In conclusion, a framework for the strategic repositioning of AMCs was offered that integrates the findings of this study; the elements of success, the factors leading to strategic repositioning, and the risk communication loop.

Subject Area

Management|Organizational behavior|Health care management

Recommended Citation

Leach, Leon J, "Academic medical centers: A framework for strategic repositioning" (2011). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3498277.