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Social networks in health care teams: evidence from the United States

Lusine Poghosyan (School of Nursing, Columbia University, New York, New York, USA)
Robert J. Lucero (College of Nursing, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, USA)
Ashley R. Knutson (School of Nursing, Columbia University, New York, New York, USA)
Mark W. Friedberg (RAND, Boston, Massachusetts, USA)
Hermine Poghosyan (School of Nursing, Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA)

Journal of Health Organization and Management

ISSN: 1477-7266

Article publication date: 10 October 2016



The purpose of this paper is to synthesize existing evidence regarding health care team networks, including their formation and association with outcomes in various health care settings.


Network theory informed this review. A literature search was conducted in major databases for studies that used social network analysis methods to study health care teams in the USA between 2000 and 2014. Retrieved studies were reviewed against inclusion and exclusion criteria.


Overall, 25 studies were included in this review. Results demonstrated that health care team members form professional (e.g. consultation) and personal (e.g. friendship) networks. Network formation can be influenced by team member characteristics (i.e. demographics and professional affiliations) as well as by contextual factors (i.e. providers sharing patient populations and physical proximity to colleagues). These networks can affect team member practice such as adoption of a new medication. Network structures can also impact patient and organizational outcomes, including occurrence of adverse events and deficiencies in health care delivery.

Practical implications

Administrators and policy makers can use knowledge of health care networks to leverage relational structures in teams and tailor interventions that facilitate information exchange, promote collaboration, increase diffusion of evidence-based practices, and potentially improve individual and team performance as well as patient care and outcomes.


Most health services research studies have investigated health care team composition and functioning using traditional social science methodologies, which fail to capture relational structures within teams. Thus, this review is original in terms of focusing on dynamic relationships among team members.



Poghosyan, L., Lucero, R.J., Knutson, A.R., W. Friedberg, M. and Poghosyan, H. (2016), "Social networks in health care teams: evidence from the United States", Journal of Health Organization and Management, Vol. 30 No. 7, pp. 1119-1139.



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