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Strategic partnerships and relationship marketing in healthcare.

Wright, Gillian H. and Taylor, W. Andrew (2005) Strategic partnerships and relationship marketing in healthcare. Public management review, 7 (2). pp. 203-224. ISSN 1471-9037

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Abstract

Despite repeated government policies to introduce market-orientation and customer-focus into the UK National Health Service, there is still much anecdotal evidence of unsuccessful policy implementation. In this article we investigate the attitudes of healthcare managers to one recent policy initiative based on partnership working that is intended to provide integrated and customer-focused service to patients. While acknowledging the tensions and dilemmas inherent in private sector marketing concepts, we argue that relationship marketing has considerable potential in public healthcare contexts, based on its advocacy of building relationships between providers and customers and between providers and their suppliers. Using the framework of relationship marketing we identify healthcare managers' concerns about the motives, effects and benefits of implementing partnership arrangements in two regions of the NHS. Through a longitudinal research design our findings suggest that while respondents' attitudes to partnership working and customer focus had become more positive after two years of policy implementation, they remain centred on the service process rather than the customers it serves. We discuss what still needs to be done to transform public healthcare from what is still a predominantly supplier and product-driven service to one that is truly relationship orientated.

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