Experimenting with clinical networks: the Australasian experience

Frances C. Cunningham, Andrew D. Morris, Jeffrey Braithwaite

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: Australian states have embraced clinical networking as a mechanism for managing, organising and improving the quality of care. Using these individualised state approaches to clinical networks, in this paper the authors aim to examine this Australasian "experimentation" and present lessons for other health systems. Design/methodology/approach: The paper draws on current knowledge from the literature on clinical networks. The 2010 Inaugural Australasian Clinical Networks Conference also serves as a primary resource, as well as the authors' extensive discussions with policy-makers, managers and clinicians in Australasian systems. Findings: Key themes from the literature include: network type (mandated or natural, and hybrids); network purpose; the importance of network objectives; drivers of network success and barriers; the need for consumer engagement; and the difficulty of evaluating network effectiveness. Policy challenges include the establishment of networks for some specialty areas and not others; how to develop common standards across networks; and the need for performance metrics to assess network impact on patient outcomes. Australian networks report difficulties with achieving greater involvement of rural clinicians and indigenous populations, and with private sector clinical engagement. There are challenges too with implementation, at service level, of models of care and recommendations. Originality/value: Clinical networks are becoming a fundamental vehicle for clinical improvement and change across complex organisational and professional boundaries. How to nurture and sustain effective clinical networks is of import to every health system and the authors invite stakeholders in health systems to network and share their empirical research on clinical networks to assist with distinguishing the evidence from the rhetoric.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)685-696
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Health, Organisation and Management
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2012
Externally publishedYes

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