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How and why are communities of practice established in the healthcare sector? A systematic review of the literature

Ranmuthugala, Geetha, Plumb, Jennifer J., Cunningham, Frances C., Georgiou, Andrew, Westbrook, Johanna I. and Braithwaite, Jeffrey (2011). How and why are communities of practice established in the healthcare sector? A systematic review of the literature. BMC Health Services Research,11:1-16.

Document type: Journal Article
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ARC Grant No. DP0986493
IRMA ID 75039815xPUB476
Title How and why are communities of practice established in the healthcare sector? A systematic review of the literature
Author Ranmuthugala, Geetha
Plumb, Jennifer J.
Cunningham, Frances C.
Georgiou, Andrew
Westbrook, Johanna I.
Braithwaite, Jeffrey
Journal Name BMC Health Services Research
Publication Date 2011
Volume Number 11
eISSN 1472-6963
Scopus ID 2-s2.0-80053960315
Start Page 1
End Page 16
Total Pages 16
Place of Publication United Kingdom
Publisher BioMed Central
HERDC Category C1 - Journal Article (DIISR)
Abstract Background
Communities of Practice (CoPs) are promoted in the healthcare sector as a means of generating and sharing knowledge and improving organisational performance. However CoPs vary considerably in the way they are structured and operate in the sector. If CoPs are to be cultivated to benefit healthcare organisations, there is a need to examine and understand their application to date. To this end, a systematic review of the literature on CoPs was conducted, to examine how and why CoPs have been established and whether they have been shown to improve healthcare practice.

Methods
Peer-reviewed empirical research papers on CoPs in the healthcare sector were identified by searching electronic health-databases. Information on the purpose of establishing CoPs, their composition, methods by which members communicate and share information or knowledge, and research methods used to examine effectiveness was extracted and reviewed. Also examined was evidence of whether or not CoPs led to a change in healthcare practice.

Results
Thirty-one primary research papers and two systematic reviews were identified and reviewed in detail. There was a trend from descriptive to evaluative research. The focus of CoPs in earlier publications was on learning and exchanging information and knowledge, whereas in more recently published research, CoPs were used more as a tool to improve clinical practice and to facilitate the implementation of evidence-based practice. Means by which members communicated with each other varied, but in none of the primary research studies was the method of communication examined in terms of the CoP achieving its objectives. Researchers are increasing their efforts to assess the effectiveness of CoPs in healthcare, however the interventions have been complex and multifaceted, making it difficult to directly attribute the change to the CoP.

Conclusions
In keeping with Wenger and colleagues' description, CoPs in the healthcare sector vary in form and purpose. While researchers are increasing their efforts to examine the impact of CoPs in healthcare, cultivating CoPs to improve healthcare performance requires a greater understanding of how to establish and support CoPs to maximise their potential to improve healthcare.
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/1472-6963-11-273   (check subscription with CDU E-Gateway service for CDU Staff and Students  check subscription with CDU E-Gateway in new window)
Additional Notes This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Description for Link Link to CC Attribution 2.0 License
URL https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/


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