Purpose – To test the validity of the presumed characteristics of professional services by studying their manifestation in the problem solving that occurs in service production. Design/methodology/approach – The paper uses medical research as secondary data to study the existence of associations between the presumed characteristics of professional services and problem solving in the medical context. A systematic review of empirical studies concerning physicians' prescribing decisions is conducted. Findings – Supporting assumptions presented in the literature, specialist knowledge of professional and customer participation was found to influence prescribing decisions. The assumption regarding collegial control was partially supported. Some degree of contradiction was found with respect to the presumed professional autonomy and altruism. Whilst the professional services literature emphasises factors related to the client's problem, the service encounter and the profession, we conclude that problem solving is influenced also by factors embedded in the related organisational, market and institutional environments. Research limitations/implications – Further empirical validation of the presumed professional characteristics is needed. The results indicate that professional services research should pay more attention to the role of the wider context in professional problem solving. Medical researchers might also benefit from a broader perspective on patient participation. Practical implications – An holistic view of factors that influence physicians' prescribing decisions is of use to managers of health care organisations, marketers of pharmaceuticals, and policy makers and third‐party payers. Originality/value – By using an interdisciplinary approach, the paper contributes to professional services research by providing empirical support for the often repeated characteristics of professional services and outlining factors that potentially influence problem solving within professional services.
International Journal of Service Industry Management – Emerald Publishing
Published: Oct 1, 2006
Keywords: Professional services; Problem solving; Health services; Medical practice