Healthcare social network research and the ECHO model™: Exploring a community of practice to support cultural brokers and transfer cultural knowledge

Phil Nixon, Chiara Broccatelli, Perrin Moss, Sarah Baggio, Angela Young, Dana Newcomb

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Abstract

Background: Project ECHO ® networks at Children’s Health Queensland Hospital and Health Service (CHQHHS) are communities of practice designed to mitigate services and systems fragmentation by building collaborative partnerships addressing priority child and youth health needs. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience the negative impacts of fragmentation in addition to historical challenges of absent or culturally inappropriate health services. Access to culturally safe and responsive services can be improved by engaging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and similar roles in an online community of practice, supporting the integration of cultural and clinical knowledge and self-determination of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander consumers in decisions affecting their health. Analysing professional support networks and knowledge sharing patterns helps identify enablers and barriers to partnerships. Using social network research, the multilevel network inclusive of ECHO network members and their colleagues was studied to identify interdisciplinary and cross-sector advice exchange patterns, explore the position of cultural brokers and identify common relational tendencies. Methods: Social network theories and methods informed the collection of network data and analysis of advice-seeking relationships among ECHO network members and their nominees. Registered members from two ECHO networks were invited to complete the Qualtrics survey. Networks analysed comprised 398 professionals from mainstream health, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Controlled Health Organisation, education, disability and child safety service settings. Results: Brokers were well represented, both those who hold knowledge brokerage positions as well as cultural brokers who incorporate clinical and cultural knowledge enabling holistic care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients (38 individuals, 17% of network). Professionals who occupy brokerage positions outside the ECHO network tend to be more connected with co-members within the network. Conclusions: This study is the first application of contemporary social network theories and methods to investigate an ECHO network. The findings highlight the connectivity afforded by brokers, enabling the coordination and collaboration necessary for effective care integration. Inclusion of cultural brokers in an ECHO network provides sustained peer group support while also cultivating relationships that facilitate the integration of cultural and clinical knowledge.

Original languageEnglish
Article number558
Number of pages13
JournalBMC Health Services Research
Volume24
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2024

Keywords

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Worker
  • Community of Practice
  • Cultural broker
  • Integrated Care
  • Project ECHO
  • Social network research
  • Virtual learning
  • Workforce development

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