Article Text

Bridging gaps to promote networked care between teams and groups in health delivery systems: a systematic review of non-health literature
  1. Jeffrey Braithwaite
  1. Australian Institute of Health Innovation, Centre for Healthcare Resilience and Implementation Science, Macquarie University, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Professor Jeffrey Braithwaite;


Objectives To assess non-health literature, identify key strategies in promoting more networked teams and groups, apply external ideas to healthcare, and build a model based on these strategies.

Design A systematic review of the literature outside of healthcare.

Method Searches guided by Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) of ABI/INFORM Global, CINAHL, IBSS, MEDLINE and Psychinfo databases following a mind-mapping exercise generating key terms centred on the core construct of gaps across organisational social structures that uncovered 842 empirical articles of which 116 met the inclusion criteria. Data extraction and content analysis via data mining techniques were performed on these articles.

Results The research involved subjects in 40 countries, with 32 studies enrolling participants in multiple countries. There were 40 studies conducted wholly or partly in the USA, 46 wholly or partly in continental Europe, 29 wholly or partly in Asia and 12 wholly or partly in Russia or Russian federated countries. Methods employed included 30 mixed or triangulated social science study designs, 39 qualitative studies, 13 experimental studies and 34 questionnaire-based studies, where the latter was mostly to gather data for social network analyses. Four recurring factors underpin a model for promoting networked behaviours and fortifying cross-group cooperation: appreciating the characteristics and nature of gaps between groups; using the leverage of boundary-spanners to bridge two or more groups; applying various mechanisms to stimulate interactive relationships; and mobilising those who can exert positive external influences to promote connections while minimising the impact of those who exacerbate divides.

Conclusions The literature assessed is rich and varied. An evidence-oriented model and strategies for promoting more networked systems are now available for application to healthcare. While caution needs to be exercised in translating outside ideas and studies, drawing on non-health ideas is useful in providing insights into other sectors.

  • Collaborative care
  • Networks
  • Teamwork

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