Comparing Electronic and Face-to-Face Communication in the Success of a Long-Term Care Quality Improvement Collaborative

Comparing Electronic and Face-to-Face Communication in the Success of a Long-Term Care Quality Improvement Collaborative

Priscilla A. Arling (College of Business, Butler University, Indianapolis, IN, USA), Edward J. Miech (Health Services Research Division, Regenstrief Institute, Indianapolis, IN, USA) and Greg W. Arling (Department of Medicine, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, IN, USA, & Indiana University Center for Aging Research, Regenstrief Institute, Indianapolis, IN, USA)
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 10
DOI: 10.4018/ijrqeh.2013010101
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Researchers have long debated the effectiveness of electronic communication for getting work done in organizations, with many arguing that face-to-face interaction is key to high quality work and desired outcomes. Yet in healthcare quality improvement (QI) collaboratives, membership is frequently comprised of individuals from different, geographically dispersed organizations. This study examines the relationship between electronic and face-to-face interaction and the outcomes of a specific QI collaborative, the Empira Fall Prevention project in Minnesota. Outside of regularly scheduled meetings, the level of electronic communication reported by participants was associated with better outcomes in terms of reducing the percentage of new falls in facilities, along with other measures of effectiveness. In-person communication outside of meetings was related to subjective measures of success. The findings suggest ways in which collaboratives and members can leverage different modes of communication to maximize the benefits derived from participation.
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Quality Improvement Collaboratives and Communication

In quality improvement collaboratives, members from multiple organizations work together to share information on effective interventions and ways to overcome barriers to implementations (Cretin, Shortell, & Keeler, 2004; Kilo, 1998). A central premise underlying success is that participants learn and benefit from each other and experts via a variety of communication methods. Prior research has found that inter-organizational communication is a key differentiator in terms of whether or not collaborative participation benefits specific members and organizations (Nembhard, 2009).

The inter-organizational communication between collaborative members is likely to occur both face-to-face and electronically, since participants typically come from geographically dispersed locations. Both collaborative organizers and members have a choice as to the mode by which they communicate and the extent to which they communicate via that mode. In addition to hosting face-to-face learning sessions, collaboratives often provide participants with a mix of communication modes including collaborative-specific websites (called extranets), phone calls, and written reports (Kilo, 1998; Nembhard, 2009). While studies have reported the benefits of in-person learning sessions and meetings (e.g. Nembhard, 2009; Ovretveit, 2002; Schouten et al., 2010), relatively little is known about the extent to which face-to-face or electronic communication between members, outside of regularly scheduled meetings, influences outcomes.

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