Health professional networks as a vector for improving healthcare quality and safety: a systematic review.
ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: While there is a considerable corpus of theoretical and empirical literature on networks within and outside of the health sector, multiple research questions are yet to be answered. OBJECTIVE: To conduct a systematic review of studies of professionals' network structures, identifying factors associated with network effectiveness and sustainability, particularly in relation to quality of care and patient safety. METHODS: The authors searched MEDLINE, CINAHL, EMBASE, Web of Science and Business Source Premier from January 1995 to December 2009. RESULTS: A majority of the 26 unique studies identified used social network analysis to examine structural relationships in networks: structural relationships within and between networks, health professionals and their social context, health collaboratives and partnerships, and knowledge sharing networks. Key aspects of networks explored were administrative and clinical exchanges, network performance, integration, stability and influences on the quality of healthcare. More recent studies show that cohesive and collaborative health professional networks can facilitate the coordination of care and contribute to improving quality and safety of care. Structural network vulnerabilities include cliques, professional and gender homophily, and over-reliance on central agencies or individuals. CONCLUSIONS: Effective professional networks employ natural structural network features (eg, bridges, brokers, density, centrality, degrees of separation, social capital, trust) in producing collaboratively oriented healthcare. This requires efficient transmission of information and social and professional interaction within and across networks. For those using networks to improve care, recurring success factors are understanding your network's characteristics, attending to its functioning and investing time in facilitating its improvement. Despite this, there is no guarantee that time spent on networks will necessarily improve patient care.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Primary care networks in Germany are formalized regional collaborations of physicians and other healthcare providers. Common goals are optimized healthcare processes and services for patients, enhanced communication, agency for professional concerns and strengthened economic power. In the ARena study (Sustainable reduction of antibiotic-induced antimicrobial resistance), 14 primary care networks in two federal German states aimed to promote appropriate antibiotics use for acute non-complicated infections by fostering awareness and understanding. Factors related to the role of primary care networks were to be identified. METHODS:For this study, audio-recorded telephone interviews were conducted with physicians, non-physician health professionals and stakeholder representatives. Pseudonymized verbatim transcripts were coded using thematic analysis. In-depth analysis was based on the inductive categories 'social support', 'social learning', 'social normative pressures' and 'social contagion' to reflect social influence processes. Data generated through a survey with physicians and non-physician health professionals were analyzed descriptively to foster understanding of the networks' potential impact on antibiotic prescribing. RESULTS:Social influence processes proved to be relevant regarding knowledge transfer, manifestation of best-practice care and self-reflection. Peer communication was seen as a great asset, the main reason for membership and affirmative for own perspectives. All interviewed physicians (n =?27) considered their network to be a strong support factor for daily routines, introduction of new routines, and continuity of care. They utilized network-offered training programs focusing on best practice guideline-oriented use of antibiotics and considered their networks supportive in dealing with patient expectations. A shared attitude combined with ARena intervention components facilitated reflective management of antibiotic prescribing. Non-physician health professionals (n =?11) also valued network peer exchange. They assumed their employers joined networks to offer improved and continuous care. Stakeholders (n =?7) expected networks and their members to be drivers for care optimization. CONCLUSION:Primary care networks play a crucial role in providing a platform for professional peer exchange, social support and reassurance. With regards to their impact on antibiotic prescribing for acute non-complicated infections, networks seem to facilitate and amplify quality improvement programs by providing a platform for refreshing awareness, knowledge and self-reflection among care providers. They are well suited to promote a rational use of antibiotics. TRIAL REGISTRATION:ISRCTN, ISRCTN58150046. Registered 24 August 2017.
Project description:Network analysis may be a powerful tool for studying interprofessional practice. Using electronic health record data and social network analysis, the network of healthcare professionals involved in colorectal cancer care at a large, urban academic medical center were mapped and studied. A total of 100 surgical colorectal cancer patients receiving treatment in 2013 and 2014 were selected at random. We used detailed access logs for the EHR to map the network of all healthcare professionals for each patient, including inpatient and outpatient settings. Approximately 2.45 million records of access logs from more than 6,800 unique users, representing over 150 roles or occupations were analyzed. Across all networks, professionals were connected to an average of 5.8 other professionals, but some were rarely connected with others while over 20 were very highly connected (> 100 other professionals). Housestaff, attending physicians, and nurses played central roles in the global network with a high number of inter- and intra-professional connections. Clusters of professionals with frequent interaction were demonstrated but, based on the size and complexity of the network, serendipitous interactions were unlikely. Settings for care seemed to influence these clusters. Patient-centric care networks were similar to the global network with some potentially important differences. Access-log information from electronic health records can be an important source of information about relationships between healthcare professionals. Findings from analyses such as this one may help define the state of current networks and potential targets for interventions to improve the quality of care.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>Professional networks are used increasingly in health care to bring together members from different sites and professions to work collaboratively. Key players within these networks are known to affect network function through their central or brokerage position and are therefore of interest to those who seek to optimise network efficiency. However, their identity may not be apparent. This study using social network analysis to ask: (1) Who are the key players of a new translational research network (TRN)? (2) Do they have characteristics in common? (3) Are they recognisable as powerful, influential or well connected individuals?<h4>Methods</h4>TRN members were asked to complete an on-line, whole network survey which collected demographic information expected to be associated with key player roles, and social network questions about collaboration in current TRN projects. Three questions asked who they perceived as powerful, influential and well connected. Indegree and betweenness centrality values were used to determine key player status in the actual and perceived networks and tested for association with demographic and descriptive variables using chi square analyses.<h4>Results</h4>Response rate for the online survey was 76.4% (52/68). The TRN director and manager were identified as key players along with six other members. Only two of nine variables were associated with actual key player status; none with perceived. The main finding was the mismatch between actual and perceived brokers. Members correctly identified two of the three central actors (the two mandated key roles director and manager) but there were only three correctly identified actual brokers among the 19 perceived brokers. Possible reasons for the mismatch include overlapping structures and weak knowledge of members.<h4>Conclusions</h4>The importance of correctly identifying these key players is discussed in terms of network interventions to improve efficiency.
Project description:Social network analysis is an approach to study the interactions and exchange of resources among people. It can help understanding the underlying structural and behavioral complexities that influence the process of capacity building towards evidence-informed decision making. A social network analysis was conducted to understand if and how the staff of a public health department in Ontario turn to peers to get help incorporating research evidence into practice.The staff were invited to respond to an online questionnaire inquiring about information seeking behavior, identification of colleague expertise, and friendship status. Three networks were developed based on the 170 participants. Overall shape, key indices, the most central people and brokers, and their characteristics were identified.The network analysis showed a low density and localized information-seeking network. Inter-personal connections were mainly clustered by organizational divisions; and people tended to limit information-seeking connections to a handful of peers in their division. However, recognition of expertise and friendship networks showed more cross-divisional connections. Members of the office of the Medical Officer of Health were located at the heart of the department, bridging across divisions. A small group of professional consultants and middle managers were the most-central staff in the network, also connecting their divisions to the center of the information-seeking network. In each division, there were some locally central staff, mainly practitioners, who connected their neighboring peers; but they were not necessarily connected to other experts or managers.The methods of social network analysis were useful in providing a systems approach to understand how knowledge might flow in an organization. The findings of this study can be used to identify early adopters of knowledge translation interventions, forming Communities of Practice, and potential internal knowledge brokers.
Project description:BACKGROUND:The likelihood of large-scale outbreaks of multidrug-resistant organisms (MDRO) is growing. MDRO outbreaks can affect a wide range of healthcare institutions. Control of such outbreaks requires structured collaboration between professionals from all involved healthcare institutions, but guidelines for cross-institutional procedures are, however, often missing. Literature indicates that such multi-actor collaboration is most promising when effective network brokers are present, and when the collaborative actors have clarity about the different roles and responsibilities in the outbreak response network, including collaborative structures and coordination roles. Studying these factors in an imaginary MDRO outbreak scenario, we gained insights into the expectations that health professionals in the Netherlands have in regard to the procedures required to best respond to any future cross-institutional MDRO outbreaks. METHODS:For exploration purpose, a focus group discussion with ten healthcare professionals was held. Subsequently, an online-survey was conducted among 56 healthcare professionals in two Dutch regions. The survey data was analysed using social network analyses (clique analysis and centrality analysis), which provided insights into the collaborative structures and potential brokers in the outbreak response networks. Additionally, respondents were asked which healthcare institutions and which professions they would prefer as coordinating actors in the collaborative network. RESULTS:Our results show a relatively high level of perceived clarity about the roles and responsibilities that healthcare professionals have during a joint outbreak response. The regional outbreak response networks which were studied appeared inclusive and integrated, with many overlapping groups of fully-connected healthcare actors. Social network analyses resulted in the identification of several central actors from different healthcare institutions with the potential to take on a brokerage role in the collaboration. Actors in the outbreak response networks also showed to prefer several healthcare professionals to take on the coordination roles. CONCLUSION:Expected collaborative structures during an imaginary regional MDRO outbreak response are relatively dense and integrated. In regard to the coordination of an MDRO outbreak response, based on both the network analysis results and the preferred coordination roles, our findings support a governance structure with several healthcare institutions involved in responding to future cross-institutional MDRO outbreaks.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Clinical practice variation that results in poor patient outcomes remains a pressing problem for health care organizations. Some evidence suggests that a key factor may be ineffective internal and professional networks that limit knowledge exchange among health care professionals. Virtual communities have the potential to overcome professional and organizational barriers and facilitate knowledge flow. OBJECTIVE:This study aimed to explore why health care professionals belong to an exemplar virtual community, ICUConnect. The specific research objectives were to (1) understand why members join a virtual community and remain a member, (2) identify what purpose the virtual community serves in their professional lives, (3) identify how a member uses the virtual community, and (4) identify how members used the knowledge or resources shared on the virtual community. METHODS:A qualitative design, underpinned by pragmatism, was used to collect data from 3 asynchronous online focus groups and 4 key informant interviews, with participants allocated to a group based on their posting behaviors during the previous two years-between September 1, 2012, and August 31, 2014: (1) frequent (>5 times), (2) low (?5 times), and (3) nonposters. A novel approach to focus group moderation, based on the principles of traditional focus groups, and e-moderating was developed. Thematic analysis was undertaken, applying the Diffusion of Innovation theory as the theoretical lens. NCapture (QRS International) was used to extract data from the focus groups, and NVivo was used to manage all data. A research diary and audit trail were maintained. RESULTS:There were 27 participants: 7 frequent posters, 13 low posters, and 7 nonposters. All participants displayed an external orientation, with the majority using other social media; however, listservs were perceived to be superior in terms of professional compatibility and complexity. The main theme was as follows: "Intensive care professionals are members of ICUConnect because by being a member of a broader community they have access to credible best-practice knowledge." The virtual community facilitated access to all professionals caring for the critically ill and was characterized by a positive and collegial online culture. The knowledge found was credible because it was extensive and because the virtual community was moderated and sponsored by a government agency. This enabled members to benchmark and improve their unit practices and keep up to date. CONCLUSIONS:This group of health care professionals made a strategic decision to be members of ICUConnect, as they understood that to provide up-to-date clinical practices, they needed to network with colleagues in other facilities. This demonstrated that a closed specialty-specific virtual community can create a broad heterogeneous professional network, overcoming current ineffective networks that may adversely impact knowledge exchange and creation in local practice settings. To address clinical practice variation, health care organizations can leverage low-cost social media technologies to improve interprofessional and interorganizational networks.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Although much research has been done investigating the roles of social network sites (SNSs) in linking patients and health professionals, there is a lack of information about their uses, benefits, and limitations in connecting health professions only for professional communication. OBJECTIVE:This review aimed to examine the utilization of SNSs for communication among health professionals in (1) frontline clinical practice, (2) professional networks, and (3) education and training to identify areas for future health communication research. METHODS:This review followed the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-analyses guidelines. A systematic search of the literature published in the last 10 years (January 1, 2007, to March 1, 2017) was performed in March 2017, using the following electronic databases: MEDLINE via OvidSP, EMBASE, CINAHL Complete, and InfoSci-Journals. The searches were conducted using the following defined search terms: "social media" OR "social network" OR "social network site" OR "Facebook" OR "Twitter" OR "Linkedin" OR "Instagram" OR "Weibo" OR "Whatsapp" OR "Telegram" OR "WeChat" AND "health" OR "health profession." RESULTS:Of the 6977 papers retrieved, a total of 33 studies were included in this review. They were exploratory in nature, and the majority used surveys (n=25) and interviews (n=6). All retrieved studies stated that SNSs enhanced effective communication and information sharing. SNSs were used for supporting delivering of clinical services, making referrals, and sharing information. They were beneficial to network building and professional collaboration. SNSs were novel tools to enhance educational interactions among peers, students, instructors, and preceptors. The application of SNSs came with restraints in technical knowledge, concerns on data protection, privacy and liability, issues in professionalism, and data protection. CONCLUSIONS:SNSs provide platforms facilitating efficient communication, interactions, and connections among health professionals in frontline clinical practice, professional networks, education, and training with limitations identified as technical knowledge, professionalism, and risks of data protection. The evolving use of SNSs necessitates robust research to explore the full potential and the relative effectiveness of SNSs in professional communication.
Project description:Allergic rhinitis (AR) is increasingly becoming a patient self-managed disease. Just under 70% of patients purchasing pharmacotherapy self-select their treatment with no health-care professional intervention often resulting in poor choices, leading to suboptimal management and increased burden of AR on the individual and the community. However, no decision is made without external, influencing forces. This study aims to determine the key influences driving patients' decision-making around AR management. To accomplish this aim, we utilised a social network theory framework to map the patient's AR network and identify the strength of the influences within this network. Adults who reported having AR were interviewed and completed an AR network map and AR severity and quality of life questionnaires. Forty one people with AR completed the study. The AR networks of the participants had a range of 1-11 influences (alters), with an average number of 4 and a median of 5. The larger the impact of AR on their quality of life, the greater the number of alters within their network. The three most commonly identified alters were, general practitioners, pharmacists and the participants' 'own experience'. The strength of the influence of health-care professionals (HCPs) was varied. The proportion of HCPs within the AR network increased as the impact of AR on their quality of life increased. By mapping the AR network, this study demonstrated that there are multiple influences behind patient's decisions regarding AR management but the role of the HCP cannot be dismissed.
Project description:There is an urgent need for strategic approaches to address the high prevalence of obesity and diabetes in New Zealand. Such approaches rely strongly on input from multiple actors in the diabetes and obesity policy space. We conducted a social network analysis to identify influential actors involved with shaping public opinion and/or policy regarding obesity and diabetes in New Zealand. Our analysis revealed a diverse network of 272 individuals deemed influential by their peers. These individuals represented nine professional categories, particularly academics (34%), health service providers (22%), and government representatives (17%). The network included a total of 17 identified decision-makers. Relative capacity of professional categories to access these decision-makers was highest for representatives of the food and beverage industry (25%), compared with nongovernment organisations (9%) or academics (7%). We identified six distinct brokers, in academic (n = 4), government (n = 1), and nongovernmental (n = 1) positions, who could play a key role in improving communication and networking activities among all interest groups. Such actions should ultimately establish effective networks to foster evidence-based policy development to prevent and reduce the burden of diabetes and obesity.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>Use of wearable sensor technology for studying human teamwork behavior is expected to generate a better understanding of the interprofessional interactions between health care professionals.<h4>Objective</h4>We used wearable sociometric sensor badges to study how intensive care unit (ICU) health care professionals interact and are socially connected.<h4>Methods</h4>We studied the face-to-face interaction data of 76 healthcare professionals in the ICU at Mie University Hospital collected over 4 weeks via wearable sensors.<h4>Results</h4>We detail the spatiotemporal distributions of staff members' inter- and intraprofessional active face-to-face interactions, thereby generating a comprehensive visualization of who met whom, when, where, and for how long in the ICU. Social network analysis of these active interactions, concomitant with centrality measurements, revealed that nurses constitute the core members of the network, while doctors remain in the periphery.<h4>Conclusions</h4>Our social network analysis using the comprehensive ICU interaction data obtained by wearable sensors has revealed the leading roles played by nurses within the professional communication network.