Experimenting with clinical networks: The Australasian experience

Frances Cunningham, Andrew Morris, Jeffrey Braithwaite

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Australian states have embraced clinicalnetworking as a mechanism for managing, organising and improving the quality ofcare. Using these individualised state approaches to clinical networks, in thispaper the authors aim to examine this Australasian “experimentation” andpresent lessons for other health systems.

Design/methodology/approach:The paper draws on currentknowledge from the literature on clinical networks. The 2010 InauguralAustralasian Clinical Networks Conference also serves as a primary resource, aswell as the authors' extensive discussions with policy‐makers, managers andclinicians in Australasian systems.

Findings: Key themes from the literature include:network type (mandated or natural, and hybrids); network purpose; theimportance of network objectives; drivers of network success and barriers; theneed for consumer engagement; and the difficulty of evaluating networkeffectiveness. Policy challenges include the establishment of networks for somespecialty areas and not others; how to develop common standards acrossnetworks; and the need for performance metrics to assess network impact onpatient outcomes. Australian networks report difficulties with achievinggreater involvement of rural clinicians and indigenous populations, and withprivate sector clinical engagement. There are challenges too withimplementation, at service level, of models of care and recommendations.

Originality/value:Clinical networks arebecoming a fundamental vehicle for clinical improvement and change acrosscomplex organisational and professional boundaries. How to nurture and sustaineffective clinical networks is of import to every health system and the authorsinvite stakeholders in health systems to network and share their empiricalresearch on clinical networks to assist with distinguishing the evidence fromthe rhetoric.

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


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