Facilitating knowledge exchange between health-care sectors, organisations and professions: a longitudinal mixed-methods study of boundary-spanning processes and their impact on health-care quality

Nasir, Laura, Robert, G., Fischer, M., Norman, Ian J., Murrells, T. and Schofield, P. (2013) Facilitating knowledge exchange between health-care sectors, organisations and professions: a longitudinal mixed-methods study of boundary-spanning processes and their impact on health-care quality. Health Services and Delivery Research, 1 (7). ISSN 2050-4349

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Abstract

Background:
Relatively little is known about how people and groups who function in boundary-spanning positions between different sectors, organisations and professions contribute to improved quality of health care and clinical outcomes.

Objectives:
To explore whether or not boundary-spanning processes stimulate the creation and exchange of knowledge between sectors, organisations and professions and whether or not this leads, through better integration of services, to improvements in the quality of care.

Design:
A 2-year longitudinal nested case study design using mixed methods.

Setting:
An inner-city area in England (‘Coxford’) comprising 26 general practices in ‘Westpark’ and a comparative sample of 57 practices.

Participants:
Health-care and non-health-care practitioners representing the range of staff participating in the Westpark Initiative (WI) and patients.

Interventions:
The WI sought to improve services through facilitating knowledge exchange and collaboration between general practitioners, community services, voluntary groups and acute specialists during the period late 2009 to early 2012. We investigated the impact of the four WI boundary-spanning teams on services and the processes through which they produced their effects.

Main outcome measures:
(1) Quality-of-care indicators during the period 2008–11; (2) diabetes admissions data from April 2006 to December 2011, adjusted for deprivation scores; and (3) referrals to psychological therapies from January 2010 to March 2012.

Data sources:
Data sources included 42 semistructured staff interviews, 361 hours of non-participant observation, 36 online diaries, 103 respondents to a staff survey, two patient focus groups and a secondary analyses of local and national data sets.

Results:
The four teams varied in their ability to, first, exchange knowledge across boundaries and, second, implement changes to improve the integration of services. The study setting experienced conditions of flux and uncertainty in which known horizontal and vertical structures underwent considerable change and the WI did not run its course as originally planned. Although knowledge exchanges did occur across sectoral, organisational and professional boundaries, in the case of child and family health services, early efforts to improve the integration of services were not sustained. In the case of dementia, team leadership and membership were undermined by external reorganisations. The anxiety and depression in black and minority ethnic populations team succeeded in reaching its self-defined goal of increasing referrals from Westpark practices to the local well-being service. From October to December 2010 onwards, referrals have been generally higher in the six practices with a link worker than in those without, but the performance of Westpark and Coxford practices did not differ significantly on three national quality indicators. General practices in a WI diabetes ‘cluster’ performed better on three of 17 Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF) indicators than practices in the remainder of Westpark and in the wider Coxford primary care trust. Surprisingly, practices in Westpark, but not in the diabetes cluster, performed better on one indicator. No statistically significant differences were found on the remaining 13 QOF indicators. The time profiles differed significantly between the three groups for elective and emergency admissions and bed-days.

Conclusions:
Boundary spanning is a potential solution to the challenge of integrating health-care services and we explored how such processes perform in an ‘extreme case’ context of uncertainty. Although the WI may have been a necessary intervention to enable knowledge exchange across a range of boundaries, it was not alone sufficient. Even in the face of substantial challenges, one of the four teams was able to adapt and build resilience. Implications for future boundary-spanning interventions are identified. Future research should evaluate the direct, measurable and sustained impact of boundary-spanning processes on patient care outcomes (and experiences), as well as further empirically based critiques and reconceptualisations of the socialisation → externalisation → combination → internalisation (SECI) model, so that the implications can be translated into practical ideas developed in partnership with NHS managers.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: © Queen's Printer and Controller of HMSO 2013. This work was produced by Nasir et al. under the terms of a commissioning contract issued by the Secretary of State for Health. This issue may be freely reproduced for the purposes of private research and study and extracts (or indeed, the full report) may be included in professional journals provided that suitable acknowledgement is made and the reproduction is not associated with any form of advertising.
Subjects: Medicine and health
Depositing User: Rod Pow
Date Deposited: 13 Jun 2014 14:53
Last Modified: 12 Jul 2017 10:03
URI: http://repository.uwl.ac.uk/id/eprint/913

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