How the study of networks informs knowledge translation and implementation: a scoping review

Mar 27, 2019 | Glegg

BACKGROUND: To date, implementation science has focused largely on identifying the individual and organizational barriers, processes, and outcomes of knowledge translation (KT) (including implementation efforts). Social network analysis (SNA) has the potential to augment our understanding of KT success by applying a network lens that examines the influence of relationships and social structures on research use and intervention acceptability by health professionals. The purpose of this review was to comprehensively map the ways in which SNA methodologies have been applied to the study of KT with respect to health professional networks.

METHODS: Systematic scoping review methodology involved searching five academic databases for primary research on KT that employed quantitative SNA methods, and inclusion screening using predetermined criteria. Data extraction included information on study aim, population, variables, network properties, theory use, and data collection methods. Descriptive statistics and chronology charting preceded theoretical analysis of findings.

RESULTS: Twenty-seven retained articles describing 19 cross-sectional and 2 longitudinal studies reported on 28 structural properties, with degree centrality, tie characteristics (e.g., homophily, reciprocity), and whole network density being most frequent. Eleven studies examined physician-only networks, 9 focused on interprofessional networks, and 1 reported on a nurse practitioner network. Diffusion of innovation, social contagion, and social influence theories were most commonly applied.

CONCLUSIONS: Emerging interest in SNA for KT- and implementation-related research is evident. The included articles focused on individual level evidence-based decision-making: we recommend also applying SNA to meso- or macro-level KT activities. SNA research that expands the range of professions under study, examines network dynamics over time, extends the depth of analysis of the role of network structure on KT processes and outcomes, and employs mixed methods to triangulate findings, is needed to advance the field. SNA is a valuable approach for evaluating key network characteristics, structures and positions of relevance to KT, implementation, and evidence informed practice. Examining how network structure influences connections and the implications of those holding prominent network positions can provide insights to improve network-based KT processes.

PubMed Abstract

Glegg, S. M. N., Jenkins, E., & Kothari, A. (2019). How the study of networks informs knowledge translation and implementation: a scoping review. Implement Sci, 14(1), 34. doi:10.1186/s13012-019-0879-1