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[ Recorded presentation ] Recorded presentation

Findings from a study of local public health agency communication structure using organizational network analysis

Jacqueline Merrill, RN, MPH, DNSc, Center for Health Policy and Department of Biomedical Informatics, Columbia University, 630 West 168th Street, GB 239, New York, NY 10032, 2123051794, jam119@columbia.edu, Michael Caldwell, MD, MPH, Department of Health, Dutchess County, 387 Main Street, Poughkeepsie, NY 12601, Maxine L. Rockoff, PhD, Department of Biomedical Informatics, Columbia University, 630 West 168th Street, Vanderbilt 5, New York, NY 10032, Suzanne Bakken, RN, DNSc, School of Nursing and Department of Biomedical Informatics, Columbia University, 630 West 168th Street, GB 229, New York, NY 10032, and Kathleen Carley, PhD, Center for Analysis of Social and Organizational Systems, Carnegie Mellon University, 5000 Forbes Avenue, 1325 Wean Hall, Pittsburgh, PA 15213.

Public health performance depends on specialized information that travels via communication networks among employees. The interactions within these networks are poorly understood and therefore unmanaged. We used network analysis to study information use in a local health department to determine what links existed between information use and performance, and to assess the method's usefulness for public health management. We collected survey data on communication links among agency staff and on the resources, tasks and knowledge they used to do their work. These data were analyzed at the individual, program, and organization level using Organizational Risk Analyzer (ORA), software developed at Carnegie Mellon. Results yielded graphical representations of network structure and statistical reports on quality of the network, employees in key network positions, status of experienced staff, and a planned merger of two divisions. Findings revealed problems in information flow including the likelihood that sub groups control knowledge and resources; possible overspecialized knowledge; potential for significant knowledge loss through retirement; a low degree of back up; and informational silos. This suggested a need for greater redundancy and better cross program coordination, but showed strengths such as efficient communication paths and good social density. The findings were used to inform strategies to address knowledge loss, increase shared situation awareness, and take advantage of network strengths. Our study demonstrated that network insights helped public health managers understand and direct information flows and supplied evidence for planning to improve performance. Additional research is planned to refine network analysis for the public health domain.

Learning Objectives:

Keywords: Network Analysis, Organizational Change

Related Web page: www.columbia.edu/~jam119/pdf/Merrill_Dissertation_060130.pdf

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Any relevant financial relationships? No

[ Recorded presentation ] Recorded presentation

Advances in Health Management Research

The 134th Annual Meeting & Exposition (November 4-8, 2006) of APHA