Table 1

Key features and motivations of networks—communities of practice, practice-based research networks, quality improvement collaboratives and innovation platforms

Key features and motivationsCommunities of practicePractice-based research networksQuality improvement collaborativesInnovation platforms
DefinitionGroups of people who share a concern or passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly. They usually form around a specific topic.27 Collaborations between primary healthcare services and academic institutions, conducting research focused on delivering care to the patients they serve29 Groups of professionals who come together, either from within an organisation or across multiple organisations, to learn from and motivate each other to improve the quality of health services46 A space for learning, action and change. It is a group of individuals (who often represent organisations) with different backgrounds, expertise and interests… The members come together to diagnose problems, identify opportunities and find ways to achieve their goals. They may design and implement activities as a platform, or coordinate activities by individual members.11
Predominant sector of applicationHealthHealthHealthAgriculture
PurposeTo improve clinical practice or to assist with implementation of an evidence-based practiceTo develop and undertake practice-relevant researchTo focus on a common problem in a structured manner to achieve improvement in a specific area of careTo identify problems and shared solutions—typically to address system issues
MembershipCommonly people from a similar professional backgroundTypically general practitioners and practice nurses supported by researchersHealthcare professionals either from within one organisation or across multiple organisations and sitesMultiple stakeholders from different backgrounds, organisations and levels of a system (or supply chain)
Opportunities for capacity buildingThrough sharing and learning within the community of practiceThrough research support to cliniciansThrough sharing and learning within the collaborativeThrough harnessing required expertise, sharing and collective problem solving
As vehicles for knowledge and information sharingFoster opportunities for knowledge and information sharing between members.Mainly generate research, but also have a role in knowledge and information sharing. Provide opportunities for coproduction of research (by clinician/researchers or collaboration between researchers and clinicians) and improve the relevance, translation and impact of research.Encourage sharing and learning between teams. Can energise learning and improvement, usually in short bursts.Facilitate knowledge and information sharing and improve the relevance, translation and impact of research. Facilitate exchange of ideas and problem solving across multiple disciplines and levels of a system, essential for tackling large-scale systemic change. Uses diversity of members and their skills, experience and perspectives as a powerful source of knowledge generation.
Examples in healthWestern Australian Community of Practice to improve the quality of referral letters to specialty clinics—Australia28
Senior Health Knowledge Network to improve the delivery of healthcare for seniors by facilitating knowledge translation among health professionals38
North Queensland Practice-Based Research— Australia31
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality47
Australian Primary Care Collaboratives48
Institute for Healthcare Improvement49
Grand Challenges— Canada50