Edited by Robert M. Morgan, Janet Turner Parish and George Deitz
Chapter 7: From theory to bedside and back: relationship marketing and medical care
I am a latecomer to the field of relationship marketing. When Len Berry first used the “relationship marketing” term (Berry 1983), I was a medical provider (a physician assistant) on a surgical team caring for critically ill patients after trauma and major surgical procedures. While scholars pondered the nature of marketing relationships in the late 1980s and early 1990s, my career had changed gears and I was working in a rural family practice. I was preoccupied with treating earaches in toddlers and heart failure in their grandparents as researchers established the foundational principles of marketing relationships. I moved from direct patient care, to managing a surgical practice, and finally to academia, as marketing scholars pounded out the theoretical details of relationship marketing during the 1990s. Now, as a marketing academic, I reflect on the relationship marketing literature in light of my 20 years of managing medical relationships as a clinician, and I see many exciting opportunities for future research. Experience and theory are different kinds of knowledge. It is important occasionally to examine how theory works in the real world, because “all purportedly theoretical constructions must be . . . capable of explaining and predicting real-world phenomena. The truth of the matter is that if it is not all right in practice, it cannot be all right in theory!” (Hunt 2002: 195, italics in original). This chapter is an exercise in theoretical arbitrage (Van de Ven and Johnson 2006).
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