Network evaluation of an innovation platform in continuous quality improvement in Australian Indigenous primary healthcare

Frances Clare Cunningham, Boyd Alexander Potts, Shanthi Ann Ramanathan, Jodie Bailie, Roxanne Gwendalyn Bainbridge, Andrew Searles, Alison Frances Laycock, Ross Stewart Bailie

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Background: From 2014 to 2019, the Centre for Research Excellence in Integrated Quality Improvement (CRE-IQI) was evaluated as an innovation platform focusing on continuous quality improvement in Indigenous Australian primary healthcare. Although social network analysis (SNA) is a recognized method for evaluating the functioning, collaboration and effectiveness of innovation platforms, applied research is limited. This study applies SNA to evaluate the CRE-IQI’s functioning as an innovation platform. Methods: Two surveys (2017, 2019) were conducted using social survey and network methods. Survey items covered respondent characteristics, their perceptions of the CRE-IQI’s performance, and its impact and sociometric relationships. Members’ relationship information was captured for the CRE-IQI at three time points, namely start (retrospectively), midpoint and final year, on three network types (knew, shared information, collaborated). SNA software was used to compute standard network metrics including diameter, density and centrality, and to develop visualizations. Survey and network results were addressed in a workshop held by members to develop improvement strategies. Results: The response rate was 80% in 2017 and 65% in 2019 (n = 49 and 47, respectively). Between 2017 and 2019, respondents’ mean ratings of the CRE-IQI’s functioning and achievements in meeting its goals were sustained. They perceived the CRE-IQI as multidisciplinary, having effective management and governance, and incorporating Indigenous research leadership, representation and ways of working. Respondents recognized high levels of trust amongst members, rated “good communication and coordination with participants” highly, and “facilitating collaboration” as the CRE’s most strongly recognized achievement. In collaboration and information-sharing networks, average path length remained low in 2017 and 2019, indicating good small-world network properties for relaying information. On average, respondents shared information and collaborated with more CRE members in 2017 than 2019. However, in both 2017 and 2019 there were new collaborations and information-sharing outside of direct collaborations. CRE-IQI outcomes included: evidence generation; knowledge transfer and skills development in quality improvement; research capacity-building, career development; mentoring; grant support; development of new projects; health service support; and policy impact. Conclusions: This study shows the utility of network analysis in evaluating the functioning, and collaboration, at the individual, organizational and health system levels, of an innovation platform, and adds to our understanding of factors enabling successful innovation platforms.

Original languageEnglish
Article number119
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalHealth Research Policy and Systems
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


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