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Call for Manuscripts: Marketing in the Healthcare Sector

Special Issue: Journal of Marketing

Healthcare is vital to our interconnected world. As the world faces a pandemic of a magnitude not witnessed for over 100 years, we are reminded of its fundamental role. Consumers (patients) seek health, healthcare providers and institutions work to deliver care, insurance companies and governments monitor its costs, markets compete on it, policy regulates it, and society benefits from its successes or is challenged by its failings. Marketing as a discipline, however, has not lived up to its potential contributions to this important aspect of our lives.

Marketing in the healthcare sector has been an intellectually challenging field of study due to a complex ecosystem of consumers, physicians, providers, firms, and institutions. Moreover, healthcare is dynamic and fast changing owing to the advent of new technologies, evolving laws and regulations, and advances in science.

Growing access to health information and scientific research means customers no longer passively receive healthcare services. Consequently, the role of marketing also must shift. How marketing contributes to economic, social, and clinical healthcare outcomes is also changing, making it necessary to rethink how marketing strategies, tools, organization, and capabilities can be applied to understand and improve healthcare exchanges.

We believe it is time to bring marketing’s system-level and customer-centric view to this important topic. This Journal of Marketing Special Issue on “Marketing in the Healthcare Sector” is dedicated to promoting research on healthcare marketing with the goal of improving knowledge of this critical research domain.

Relevant Domains, Actors, and Institutions

Healthcare is a multi-faceted domain. Specifically, healthcare involves consideration of preventive and curative products, services, and systems that are designed to promote well-being. We hope the Special Issue will sweep across the design, development, delivery, and evaluation of these products, services, markets, and ecosystems in areas as broad as physical health, mental health, and a range of alternative medicine therapies.

A wide array of actors and institutions are involved, including consumers, healthcare providers (e.g., general practitioners and specialists, nurse practitioners hospitals, clinics), local, state, federal, and international government agencies, health insurance providers, healthcare education providers (e.g., universities), practitioner associations such as the AMA, medical researchers, legal professionals, pharmaceutical companies, and providers of medical technologies.

Suggested Topics

Marketing in the healthcare sector can be studied from consumer, institutional agent, provider, competitor, market, policy, or societal perspectives. Consistent with JM’s editorial mission, submitted papers should address a real-world marketing question or problem.

Examples of topics that might appear in the Special Issue are as follows (non-exhaustive):

  • Marketing strategy: Marketing concepts and perspectives are important to many aspects of healthcare, including:
    • Frontline perspective. How do physicians, nurses, patient navigators, and their administrative counterparts approach the management of consumer preventive and compliance-focused health behavior and how can this be improved? What is the impact of training, incentives, and turnover in healthcare providers across different caregivers (e.g., doctors, nurses, medical assistants)? How do salespeople influence medical decision making for the betterment or detriment of health outcomes? How can marketing contribute to improving frontline satisfaction and performance? 
    • Service perspective. How can clinicians be more effective interacting with multiple agents in the healthcare domain (e.g., patients, providers, insurance companies, government agencies)? How to design optimal healthcare environments? What new metrics can be implemented from new data streams to better assess and improve healthcare service quality? What is the role of standards of care in blueprinting service experiences?
    • Access and distribution perspectives. Which healthcare factors determine a patient’s access and usage of healthcare services? What are the tradeoffs in different healthcare delivery channels (e.g., hospitals, urgent care, and telemedicine)? What is the role of marketing in increasing “at home” health care or other, more efficient distribution systems? How does access to healthcare influence health?
    • Pricing perspective. How can healthcare pricing be more efficient? What are the tradeoffs associated with different pricing strategies used? How should the consumer perspective inform healthcare pricing? How do consumer and provider decisions change regarding price-quality tradeoffs in the presence of better information?
    • Advertising perspective. How does direct-to-consumer medical advertising impact usage and medical outcomes? What are tradeoffs and insights from international differences in medical advertising policies? 
    • Customer relationship management. Who owns healthcare data? How can patient systems be improved and data managed to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of care? How do we personalize healthcare outreach and compliance strategies to improve healthcare success? How do we use technology to create macro health changes while tailoring to individual differences?
  • New product and service perspective. How can healthcare customers contribute to the development of new products and services? What is marketing’s role in the new product development process? Why do some firms succeed in developing medical breakthroughs that save millions of lives while others falter? What role do approvals and clinical trials have on innovation? When does reverse innovation succeed in improving health and when does it fail?
    • Competitive perspective. How does competition affect healthcare? What can be done to reduce opacity in pricing to increase price competition in healthcare? What is the role of infomediaries in providing price information? What market incentive systems would produce more societal welfare related to health?
  • Healthcare innovations and technologies: (1) How can healthcare professionals use the new forms of data from AI, IoT, health chatbots, etc. to provide value to customers? (2) How can firms help customers learn about and adopt new technologies (e.g., wearable tracking devices, telemedicine) in healthcare? How can such technology be used to assist customers in treatment decisions? Widespread adoption of decision support tools or decision aids is still lagging in many healthcare organizations and markets. With its long history of diffusion research, how can marketing play a role in diffusing healthcare technologies to both consumers and to medical systems that continue to use legacy systems? How has Covid-19 helped these systems “learn fast” to offer new digital activities at scale and what organizational and market factors influenced adoption? (3) How does technology influence customer compliance in the medical domain? (4) How does artificial intelligence (AI) enable personalization of the marketing mix, product offerings, and recommendations in healthcare? (5) What public risks do new healthcare innovations carry and how should society manage those?
  • Consumer decisions: (1) How can we better understand the evolving role of the customer throughout the healthcare journey? How can marketing influence healthcare to improve consumer decisions and compliance? What are the predictors of consumer self-disclosure of important medical information? (2) How do consumers and professionals co-create value in healthcare services? (3) What is the role of the family in consumer healthcare decision making? How do consumers make healthcare decisions for their dependents (e.g., children, elderly parents), including advanced directives for end-of-life decisions and aging consumers’ healthcare (e.g., hospital-in-the-home)? (4) What are the roles of customer communities in improving public health? What are the consequences when consumer communities advocate for actions that are counter to public health (e.g., anti-vaccination, anti-masks, and anti-social distancing) and what can be done? (5) How do consumers decide on healthcare insurance and how do they use or misuse policies? How do consumer decisions change for different groups (e.g., age, rural, non-documented, or uninsured)?
  • Organizational and ecosystem topics: (1) What role does the development of customer-centric organizational cultures, structures, metrics, and leaders have on the provision of healthcare products and services? How do these organizational factors affect the health of employees as well as customers? (2) How can we move beyond clinical care to build effective health ecosystems around consumers? What institutional and systems-level activities are currently left out of healthcare? (3) What organizational alternatives can be designed to improve consumer healthcare, including in-home care, emergency care alternatives, and telemedicine? (4) How do marketing alliances, acquisitions, and joint ventures influence care and prices? What is marketing’s role in increasing the effectiveness of public, private, and governmental healthcare alliances? (5) What are the tradeoffs between marketing effectiveness on for-profit firms’ performance and patient outcomes? (6) Can marketing help improve the coordination and reduce fragmentation among healthcare providers and systems to improve health outcomes and reduce costs? Does centralized leadership improve patient quality and reduce costs? (7) How can we redesign all organizations to be “health promoting” for both employees and customers? What is the role of marketing in such organizational transformations? (8) How can marketing be more effectively integrated into healthcare intervention processes? What is the nature of this role and the scalable qualities of these processes? (9) How can a marketing perspective lead to the transformation of healthcare systems to ensure that the “human in the system”—that is patients and providers, including front-line workers—are treated equitably?
  • Policy, regulatory, and societal topics: (1) Why does healthcare cost so much, especially in the US? At 19% of GDP, what can marketing do to help convert the $3.6T spent into more effective and efficient care? Are marketing expenditures contributing to more expensive healthcare in privatized health systems (e.g., US) compared to public systems (e.g., UK, Sweden) or hybrid systems (e.g., Australia, The Netherlands)? Are consumers better or worse off in countries where drug advertising is allowed versus countries where it is not allowed? (2) What is the impact of health quality information disclosures related to doctors and hospitals on consumer choice and competition? What is the role of measuring and sharing healthcare metrics such as infection rates, patient satisfaction, and quality of care on different constituents’ behaviors? (3) What is optimal approach to patient privacy? How should healthcare firms respond to policy initiatives to protect consumer data? How can marketing help navigate the tradeoffs between patient privacy (e.g., HIPAA) and other outcomes? (4) How do regulations and insurance restrictions influence the use of alternative and non-traditional medical practices and what are the medical outcomes? How do international and inter-state differences in healthcare regulation shape healthcare marketing activities and outcomes? (5) What is the impact of new direct-to-consumer healthcare laws?
  • Other health topics: (1) What is the role of marketing in managing the Covid-19 and other health crises? (2) What healthcare challenges and solutions are unique to emerging markets? How can marketing contribute to their resolution or their scaling?

Types of Papers

This Special Issue seeks papers that examine contemporary issues in the healthcare business and highlight the relevance of marketing approaches, knowledge, and tools. We also encourage papers with a marketing focus that span boundaries with other disciplines such as public health, social and behavioral sciences, computer science, and economics. Purely conceptual papers are welcome as are papers using any methodological approach.

Finally, the Special Issue will not include articles focused on consumers’ decision-making outside of the healthcare sector, even when those decisions have a direct impact on their health (e.g., consumers’ adoption of healthy food choices or lifestyles).


All papers submitted to the Special Issue will go through the regular JM review process, utilizing the existing editorial structure, including the four current Editors. However, specialized ad hoc AEs and reviewers may be added to papers on a case-by-case basis as needed. When submitting a paper to the Special Issue, type “Marketing in the Healthcare Sector” in the field requesting this information. Submissions must be made between July 1, 2021 and November 1, 2021.

Given the unique nature of the Special Issue, the Editors welcome queries by authors regarding topic fit. Direct all inquiries to Editor-in-Chief Christine Moorman (moorman@duke.edu).