Discovering healthcare professional-practice networks: The added value of qualitative SNA

A. Claudio Bosio, Guendalina Graffigna, Giuseppe Scaratti, Simon Bishop, Justin Waring

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


The aim of this paper is to examine the benefits of undertaking mixed methods social network analysis (SNA) to investigate patterns of interpersonal relationships in healthcare delivery. Although SNA has roots in anthropological and ethnographic research, recent emphasis has been on the mathematical properties of social networks utilising graph theory and statistical analysis. While such studies may present interesting data on the structure of ties, this paper argues that they sidestep other important elements of patterns of social relationships; their meaning and their implications for network members. The paper identifies how SNA survey can be employed alongside ethnographic data within a qualitative framework. The paper reports on a study that investigated how knowledge sharing in social networks can contribute to patient safety in surgical care involving a social network survey, qualitative interviews and ethnographic observations. Results describe how each research method illuminated different elements of professional practice networks. These focus on the additional elements of networks identified through qualitative methods. The discussion examines how qualitative and quantitative findings relate to each other and could be combined within an overall qualitative methodology. The paper answers the call for a greater utilisation of network methods in healthcare studies; demonstrates the benefits of qualitative research on social networks; and presents data on the contribution of health professionals’ interpersonal relationships in the production of safe patient care.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)308-322
Number of pages15
JournalQualitative Research in Organizations and Management: An International Journal
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 16 Nov 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Health care
  • Research
  • Social networks


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