Balancing hospital governance: a systematic review of 15 years of empirical research

from Social Science & Medicine at on July 31, 2020 at 03:57PM

Available online 31 July 2020, 113252

Review article

Balancing hospital governance: a systematic review of 15 years of empirical research


We synthesize empirical hospital governance research from the last 15 years

There is no clarity about ideal board size and composition

Clinical participation on hospital boards has a positive effect on performance

Higher board involvement in quality of care is linked with higher performance

There is a lack of research into the dynamics and processes of hospital governance


It is crucial that we gain a deeper understanding of the features of organizational governance and how they contribute to hospital performance. Health care governance research has traditionally had a strong focus on the size and composition (i.e., the attributes) of the governing bodies, but less attention has been given to the dynamics, processes, and roles. Furthermore, evidence regarding the interconnection between the board and the executive management is lacking. This systematic literature review is thus intended to give a detailed summary of the attributes, the dynamics, and the processes, as well as the roles of governing bodies, by synthesizing the findings of published empirical studies. The framework of Kane et al. (2009) was used to position the results, taking into account external constraints and outputs/ performance. Sixty-three studies were included in the systematic review. The majority of these studies deal with attributes (n = 34) and roles (n = 27); the smallest number of studies (n = 11) focus on dynamics and processes. There is a lack of consistency in the research findings on attributes and there is too little research into the dynamics and processes of hospital governance. However, it has been shown that clinical participation on the hospital board and the focus on quality in hospital board roles can have a beneficial effect. The studies do not provide sufficient direction on what best practice for governing hospitals should be. For this reason, we here provide a useful framework for understanding the aspects of governance and their impact on performance in hospitals and compare these with general corporate governance literature. Therefrom we propose avenues for further research.



executive team


health care


systematic review

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