Social network analysis in primary care: the impact of interactions on prescribing behaviour

Health Policy. 2009 Oct;92(2-3):141-8. doi: 10.1016/j.healthpol.2009.03.005. Epub 2009 Apr 7.


Objectives: In many healthcare systems of affluent countries, general practitioners (GPs) are encouraged to work in collaborative arrangements to increase patients' accessibility and the quality of care. There are two lines of thought regarding the ways in which belonging to a network can affect GP behaviour: (1) the social capital framework posits that, through relationships, individuals acquire resources, such as information, that allow them to perform better; and (2) the social influence framework sees relationships as avenues through which individual actors influence other individuals and through which behavioural norms are developed and enforced. The objective of this study is to provide an evaluation of the effects of GP network organisation on their prescribing behaviour.

Methods: We used administrative data from a Local Health Authority (LHA) in Italy concerning GPs organisation and prescriptions.

Results: We found that GPs working in a collaborative arrangement have a similar prescribing behaviour while we did not find a significant relationship between the centrality of a GP and her capability to meet LHA's targets.

Conclusions: Our data support the conclusion that, in the case of GP collaboration initiatives, the social influence mechanism is more relevant than the social capital mechanism.

MeSH terms

  • Cooperative Behavior
  • Drug Prescriptions*
  • General Practice / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Italy
  • National Health Programs / organization & administration
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'*
  • Social Support*