Background: A 'communities of practice' (CoP) approach has the potential to address quality improvement issues and facilitate research in general practice by engaging those most intimately involved in delivering services - the health professionals.
Objective: This article outlines the CoP approach and discusses some of the challenges involved in using this approach to raise standards in general practice and how these challenges might be addressed.
Discussion: General practitioner insight needs to be harnessed in order to develop solutions that are conceived in, and informed by, clinical practice. A CoP approach provides control to the practitioners over selection of the most relevant research question and outcome measure. However, the method is challenging as it requires a focus that is suitable, that motivates the participants, and effective management strategies and resources to support the CoP.