Corporate Social Responsibility Application in the Healthcare Sector: A Bibliometric Analysis and Synthesis

Corporate Social Responsibility Application in the Healthcare Sector: A Bibliometric Analysis and Synthesis

Gianpaolo Tomaselli, Lalit Garg, Vipul Gupta, Peter A. Xuereb, Sandra C. Buttigieg
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 13
DOI: 10.4018/IJISSC.2020010102
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This article reviews the literature to understand the current state of corporate social responsibility (CSR) application and communication in the healthcare sector. First, the authors provide a bibliometric analysis that quantifies the number of scientific publications regarding CSR in healthcare of the last ten years (2007-2016). Then, they present the theoretical framework. Starting from a brief summary of CSR literature, the authors explain peculiarities of the healthcare sector and contextualize the CSR debate in the healthcare context, identifying its current application and gaps. The authors review not only the application of CSR in healthcare but also analyze the topic of CSR communication, as well as the tools adopted by healthcare organizations to communicate their CSR activities in this sector.
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Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a concept that has many different meanings, interpretations and definitions. The European Commission (2011) defined it as “The responsibility of enterprises for their impacts on society (p. 6)”. However, the way CSR is understood and implemented is different across companies, sectors and countries (Tehemar, 2012).

CSR should be a subject of interest to organizations across all sectors, not only for business-oriented organizations, but also public and not-for-profit ones (Kakabadse & Rozuel, 2006). CSR is an issue of key importance for healthcare organizations, due to several challenges that they are facing nowadays (technological advances, economic and financial crisis, sustainability, and social pressures) (Collins, 2010; Tomaselli et al, 2015, 2018). Moreover, they are required to provide optimal quality and cost-effective patient care with the limited resources allocated or available to them (Fottler & Blair, 2002). Health sector organizations should therefore pay special attention to CSR and the extent to which they make it visible and accessible to their stakeholders.

Thus, CSR is a key activity for today’s organizations (Tomaselli et al, 2016). CSR in healthcare also concerns health education, promotion and prevention. Governments are spending enormous amounts of money in promoting healthy lifestyles and in launching health campaigns. For example, the US Government is spending over 13 billion US dollars per year on HIV/AIDS, as well as huge amounts of money being spent to combat the problems of obesity, drug addiction, and alcoholism (Avert, 2007). Chronic illnesses are by far the leading cause of mortality in the world, representing 60 per cent of all deaths, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO, 2016). In Italy, chronic diseases are responsible for 7 out of 10 deaths each year, and they account for 84% of Italy’s health care costs (CDC, 2015). Likewise, for Malta, diseases of the circulatory system account for 45% of all deaths and, therefore, higher than the EU15 average, while diabetes mellitus accounts for 3.4% of all deaths, also higher than the EU15 average (Azzopardi Muscat et al., 2014). Therefore, CSR has a significant impact on healthcare organizations and can help them reduce the costs of disease, in particular chronic diseases, in the long run through the dissemination of prevention information and health promotion, as part of the healthcare CSR communication strategy.

Furthermore, the importance of CSR in healthcare lies in the fact that it could help healthcare organizations to improve their image, reputation and credibility. To this regard, public opinion does not trust organizations whose efforts are not directed in observing social responsibilities (Watts & Holme, 1999). Moreover, CSR is important also to strengthen stakeholders’ relations (Tehemar, 2012).

The purpose of this paper is to systematically review and synthetize existing literature on the application of CSR in healthcare and CSR communication in the healthcare sector.

The authors focused on three main research questions: i) how important is CSR in the healthcare sector and how is it applied?; ii) are healthcare organizations communicating their CSR and how?; and iii) to what extent have these topics been treated in the literature?

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