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Boundary organising in healthcare: theoretical perspectives, empirical insights and future prospects

Roman Kislov (Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, UK) (The University of Manchester, Manchester, UK)
Gill Harvey (Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia) (Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia)
Lorelei Jones (School of Health Sciences, Bangor University, Bangor, UK)

Journal of Health Organization and Management

ISSN: 1477-7266

Article publication date: 11 April 2021

Issue publication date: 27 April 2021




The purpose of this paper is to introduce a special issue on boundary organising in healthcare bringing together a selection of six leading papers accepted for presentation at the 12th Organisational Behaviour in Health Care (OBHC 2020) Conference.


In this introductory paper, the guest editors position the special issue papers in relation to the theoretical literature on boundaries and boundary organising and highlight how these contributions advance our understanding of boundary phenomena in healthcare.


Three strands of thinking – practice-based, systems theory and place-based approaches – are briefly described, followed by an analytical summary of the six papers included in the special issue. The papers illustrate how the dynamic processes of boundary organising, stemming from the dual nature of boundaries and boundary objects, can be constrained and enabled by the complexity of broader multi-layered boundary landscapes, in which local clinical and managerial practices are embedded.


The authors set the scene for the papers included in the special issue, summarise their contributions and implications, and suggest directions for future research.

Research implications/limitations

The authors call for interdisciplinary and multi-theoretical investigations of boundary phenomena in health organisation and management, with a particular attention to (1) the interplay between multiple types of boundaries, actors and objects operating in complex multi-layered boundary systems; (2) diversity of the backgrounds, experiences and preferences of patients and services users and (3) the role of artificial intelligence and other non-human actors in boundary organising.

Practical implications

Developing strategies of reflection, mitigation, justification and relational work is crucial for the success of boundary organising initiatives.



Funding: RK is part-funded by the National Institute for Health Research Applied Research Collaboration (NIHR ARC) Greater Manchester. The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the National Institute for Health Research or the Department of Health and Social Care.


Kislov, R., Harvey, G. and Jones, L. (2021), "Boundary organising in healthcare: theoretical perspectives, empirical insights and future prospects", Journal of Health Organization and Management, Vol. 35 No. 2, pp. 133-140.



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