Skip to main content


Table 1 Typology of clinical networks

From: The effectiveness of clinical networks in improving quality of care and patient outcomes: a systematic review of quantitative and qualitative studies

  Community of practice Information network Clinical network (non-managed) Clinical network (managed) Integrated service delivery
Definition Groups of people who share a concern or passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly. Communities of practice are characterised by voluntary and transitory memberships without a hierarchical structure. Soft networks are largely referral systems whereby members list themselves in an electronic directory to receive information and resources. Groups of voluntary experts who work together on common concerns to develop solutions that involve transcending traditional boundaries. These networks are characterised by a hierarchical structure with governance arrangements. These tend to be organised by clinical discipline. Groups of clinicians who deliver services across boundaries between healthcare professions and the different sectors of the health system. These tend to be organised by clinical discipline. Networks made up of healthcare organisations as well as individuals within them with an overarching administrative structure with a focus on integration and coordination of clinical services. These tend to be organised by geographical region.
Membership Individuals
Flexible and unrestricted
Flexible and unrestricted
Flexible and voluntary
Individuals and
healthcare organisations
Healthcare organisations
Contractual arrangements about service delivery
Governance and management Non-hierarchical and informal
“Bottom up”
Non-hierarchical and informal
“Bottom up”
“Bottom up”
“Mix of bottom up and top down”
“Top down”
Overlap with other typology Enclavea Enclave Individualistic Individualistic Hierarchical
Example Canadian Health Services Research Foundation - The Executive Training for Research Application (EXTRA) program alumni community of practice, Canada
NHS UK – CHAIN: Contact, Help, Advice and Information Network, UK
NSW Agency for Clinical Innovation’s networks, Australia
NHS National Services Division Scotland Managed Clinical Networks, UK
Veterans Integrated Service Networks, Veterans’ Health Administration, US
Included in this review Not included Not included Included Included Not included
  1. aEnclave is defined where members are individuals rather than organisations whose participation is voluntary and often transient