The strong relationship between network characteristics and operational success has been demonstrated, for example, in the dispersion of innovation in R&D networks, adoption of good practice in communities of practice, and word-of-mouth communication in online consumer communities.
The advantage of using social network analysis in these types of settings is a better understanding of how information and practice spreads through formal and informal networks, leading to better strategies for improved information flow, improved ability to respond to problems, better planning for innovation, investment in value-creating interactions, and more intense employee engagement.
In the healthcare setting there is some evidence to suggest that networks work in several ways in creating outcomes. Social network analysis has been used to investigate, for example, multi-professional patterns during patient handoffs, understanding communication in emergency settings, and influential discussions amongst physicians.
In this project, researchers from our Centre for Healthcare Innovation and Improvement are reviewing our current knowledge of how social networks operate in healthcare settings and exploring ways forward for further enhancing our understanding. Initially the study involves a review of the literature on social networks in healthcare, which is then followed up by a systematic identification of research needs with the participation of health care professionals and other social network researchers.
This is a collaborative project between West of England Academic Health Science Network (WEAHSN) and the University of Bath, aiming to improve the management of social networks for creating positive outcomes within healthcare.