Organizing Care during the COVID-19 Pandemic: The Role of Accounting in German Hospitals

Christian Huber*, Nadine Gerhardt, Jacob Reilley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

Purpose
The purpose of this study is to provide insight into the roles of accounting in the management of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in five German hospitals.

Design/methodology/approach
The authors conducted three rounds of interviews, ethnographic observations of meetings and document analyses in five German hospitals between February and August 2020.

Findings
The authors found that actors repeatedly used a central set of indicators (the number of beds for COVID-19 patients) when adapting a healthcare infrastructure to the pandemic. Accounting figures allowed actors to problematize prior configurations, organize processes to make uncertainty plannable and virtualize changes to resume treating non-COVID-19 patients.

Practical implications
The authors offer suggestions about scenario planning and interorganizational learning which have implications for healthcare practitioners.

Originality/value
The authors contribute to the accounting in crisis literature by adding an organization-focused study. Adding nuance to key themes in the literature, they show how the organizations and the field level interact and how organizing locally preceded economizing. They also offer a nonbinary answer to the question of whether or not changes revert back to “normal” after a crisis event.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAccounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal
Number of pages12
ISSN1368-0668
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 30 Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

Epub ahead of print. Published online: 30 March 2021.

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • Hospitals
  • Accounting in crises
  • Healthcare
  • Nonfinancial indicators

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