Agencies with different foci (e.g. nutrition, social, medical, housing) serve people living with HIV (PLHIV). Serving needs of PLHIV comprehensively requires a high degree of coordination among agencies which often benefits from more frequent communication. We combined Social Network theory and Relational Coordination theory to study coordination among HIV agencies in Baltimore. Social Network theory implies that actors (e.g., HIV agencies) establish linkages amongst themselves in order to access resources (e.g., information). Relational Coordination theory suggests that high quality coordination among agencies or teams relies on the seven dimensions of frequency, timeliness and accuracy of communication, problem-solving communication, knowledge of agencies' work, mutual respect and shared goals. We collected data on frequency of contact from 57 agencies using a roster method. Response options were ordinal ranging from 'not at all' to 'daily'. We analyzed data using social network measures. Next, we selected agencies with which at least one-third of the sample reported monthly or more frequent interaction. This yielded 11 agencies whom we surveyed on seven relational coordination dimensions with questions scored on a Likert scale of 1-5. Network density, defined as the proportion of existing connections to all possible connections, was 20% when considering monthly or higher interaction. Relational coordination scores from individual agencies to others ranged between 1.17 and 5.00 (maximum possible score 5). The average scores for different dimensions across all agencies ranged between 3.30 and 4.00. Shared goals (4.00) and mutual respect (3.91) scores were highest, while scores such as knowledge of each other's work and problem-solving communication were relatively lower. Combining theoretically driven analyses in this manner offers an innovative way to provide a comprehensive picture of inter-agency coordination and the quality of exchange that underlies collaborative ties. These methods together can identify areas that could be targeted to promote closer ties.
Keywords: HIV/AIDS; Health services research; Interagency collaboration; Relational coordination; Social network analysis; USA; Vulnerable populations.
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