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OBJECTIVE. Two theories--agency and managerialism--are compared with respect to their usefulness in explaining the role of insiders on the hospital board: whether their participation enhances or impairs board financial decision making. DATA SOURCES/STUDY SETTING. The study used 1985 hospital financial and governing board data for a representative sample of acute care California hospitals. STUDY DESIGN. Relationships were examined cross-sectionally between the presence or absence of insiders on the board and measures of hospital financial viability while controlling for the organizational factors of system affiliation, ownership, size, region, and corporate restructuring. PRINCIPAL FINDINGS. Multiple regression analysis found significant relationships between insider (CEO, medical staff) participation and hospital viability. CONCLUSIONS. These results support the managerial theory of governance by suggesting that the CEO and medical staff provide informational advantages to the hospital governing board. However, the cross-sectional design points to the need for future longitudinal studies in order to sequence these relationships between insider participation and improved hospital viability.