Although implementation models broadly recognize the importance of social relationships, our knowledge about applying social network analysis (SNA) to formative, process, and outcome evaluations of health system interventions is limited. We explored applications of adopting an SNA lens to inform implementation planning, engagement and execution, and evaluation. We used Health Links, a province-wide program in Canada aiming to improve care coordination among multiple providers of high-needs patients, as an example of a health system intervention. At the planning phase, an SNA can depict the structure, network influencers, and composition of clusters at various levels. It can inform the engagement and execution by identifying potential targets (e.g., opinion leaders) and by revealing structural gaps and clusters. It can also be used to assess the outcomes of the intervention, such as its success in increasing network connectivity; changing the position of certain actors; and bridging across specialties, organizations, and sectors. We provided an overview of how an SNA lens can shed light on the complexity of implementation along the entire implementation pathway, by revealing the relational barriers and facilitators, the application of network-informed and network-altering interventions, and testing hypotheses on network consequences of the implementation.
Keywords: Health Links; coordinated care; implementation; social network analysis.