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About this book

This book investigates the powerful role of online intermediaries, which connect companies with their end customers, to facilitate joint product innovation. Especially in the healthcare context, such intermediaries deploy interactive online platforms to foster co-creation between engaged healthcare consumers and innovation-seeking healthcare companies.

In three empirical studies, this book outlines the key characteristics of online intermediaries in healthcare, their distinct strategies, and the remaining challenges in the field. Readers will also be introduced to the stages companies go through in adopting such co-created solutions. As such, the work appeals for both its academic scope and practical reach.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1. Introduction

Chapter 1 starts by outlining the complex setup in the healthcare sector that shows structural differences to other sectors. Recent developments in the field of innovation advocate for the approach of open innovation that may help to tackle these challenges. Especially using the innovation potential of healthcare consumers appears to be a critical resource hardly explored. Through the proliferation of health-related online platforms that pool various types of healthcare consumers, the need emerges to better understand the contribution of such platforms for innovation in healthcare. Four examples from practice illustrate available models today and demonstrate its relevance. Apart from its real‐world relevance, the academic relevance is derived in Chap. 1 by specifying current research gaps that provide the motivation for this research. Based on that, the research questions for this work are formulated. Chapter 1 then finishes with an overview of the structure of this thesis.

Christoph W. Künne

Chapter 2. Theoretical Framework

To guide the empirical studies to be conducted, the present chapter derives the theoretical framework. It aims at clarifying the conceptual components that are used throughout the remainder of this research. Therefore, the first section of this chapter begins with the elucidation of the most necessary conceptual components. First, the concept of consumer co-creation for innovation is presented and defined. Second, healthcare consumers are introduced as a construct and it is stated that healthcare consumers may serve as promising input factor for consumer co-creation. Third, it is argued that knowledge is an important determinant of innovation and the knowledge-based theory of the firm is introduced. Fourth, the concept of innovation intermediary is presented which provides the essential foundation to view an organization running a health-related online platform as an innovation intermediary if it is set up in this way. In the second section of this chapter, all components are consolidated to form the theoretical framework.

Christoph W. Künne

Chapter 3. Empirical Study I: Identifying Online Innovation Intermediaries in Healthcare

Chapter 3 represents the first empirical study. This study recognizes that a multitude of online health platforms is available and derives the need to identify those platforms that may serve as OII platforms. After deriving dimensions for typology of health 2.0 platforms, a large scale case‐study‐based approach is chosen. Through desk review, a sample of online health platforms is created from which health 2.0 platforms are filtered. For each of the latter case vignettes are developed. The study provides classification of health 2.0 platforms from an innovation perspective and identifies a set of OII platforms for which further descriptive attributes are found.

Christoph W. Künne

Chapter 4. Empirical Study II: Exploring Online Innovation Intermediaries in Healthcare

Chapter 4 deals with the second empirical study that builds on the findings from the previous chapter. It identifies the need to understand the agency of OIIs in greater detail and how they contribute to consumer co‐creation. Also, existing research is lacking a comprehensive cross‐case analysis in this field. Therefore, this study aims at developing an understanding about the OII activities, OII types, the OII value potential for HCOs, and critical challenges in the OII ecosystem. Based on an exploratory, multiple case study with a cross‐case analysis, interviews with OII organizations from eight countries are conducted. The majority of the interviewees confirm the large potential of consumer co‐creation in healthcare.

Christoph W. Künne

Chapter 5. Empirical Study III: Organizational Adoption of User Innovation Inputs

Chapter 5 deals with the third empirical study that switches the perspective of analysis to the beneficiaries of OIIs and co‐creation: the HCOs. To improve the HCO innovation performance, the integration of external knowledge artifacts from OIIs lacks understanding. The organizational adoption process of such knowledge artifacts plays an important role here and Rogers' theory on innovation adoption is applied. Through an in‐depth single case study in the medical device industry, this study provides a refined process model of the organizational adoption of consumer generated knowledge artifacts. This model helps to explain why great innovation inputs from end users do not necessarily surface in finalized product innovations.

Christoph W. Künne

Chapter 6. Discussion and Conclusion

Chapter 6 concludes this thesis by summarizing its findings. The results are holistically discussed in the light of the overarching research question and the underlying theoretical framework. To end, implications for practice and avenues for future research in this compelling field are equally derived.

Christoph W. Künne

Chapter 7. Annexes

Parts of this research have earlier been presented to the academic community at international conferences, research colloquia, and related proceedings. This author is sincerely grateful to all peer reviewers who helped to improve this work. The major contribution to each of the below articles remains with the author of this thesis.

Christoph W. Künne

Erratum to: Online Intermediaries for Co-Creation

Christoph W. Künne


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