Creating conditions for effective knowledge brokering: a qualitative case study

Prue Burns, Graeme Currie, Ian McLoughlin, Tracy Robinson, Amrik Sohal, Helena Teede

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Background: Process improvement in healthcare is informed by knowledge from the private sector. Skilled individuals may aid the adoption of this knowledge by frontline care delivery workers through knowledge brokering. However, the effectiveness of those who broker knowledge is limited when the context they work within proves unreceptive to their efforts. We therefore need greater insight into the contextual conditions that support individuals to broker process improvement knowledge to the frontline of care delivery, and how policy makers and organizations might generate such conditions. Methods: Our research took place in a healthcare system within an Australian State. We undertook a qualitative, embedded single case study over the four year period of a process improvement intervention encompassing 57 semi-structured interviews (with knowledge brokers, policy makers, and executive sponsors), 12 focus groups, and 137 h of observation, which included the frontline implementation of actual process improvement initiatives, where knowledge brokering took place. Results: We identified four phases of the process improvement intervention that moved towards a more mature collaboration within which knowledge brokering by improvement advisors began to emerge as effective. In the first phase knowledge brokering was not established. In the second phase, whilst knowledge brokering had been initiated, the knowledge being brokered lacked legitimacy amongst frontline practitioners, resulting in resistance. Only in the fourth and final phase of the intervention did the collective experience of policy makers result in reflections on how they might engender a more receptive context for knowledge brokering. Conclusion: We highlight a number of suggested actions that policy makers might consider, if they wish to engender contextual conditions that support knowledge brokering. Policy makers might consider: ensuring they respect local context and experience, by pulling good ideas upward, rather than imposing foreign knowledge from on high; facilitating the lateral diffusion of knowledge by building cultural linkages between people and organizations; strengthening collaboration, not competition, so that trans-organisational flow of ideas might be encouraged; being friend, not foe, to healthcare organizations on their knowledge integration journey. In sum, we suggest that top-down approaches to facilitating the diffusion and adoption of new ideas ought to be reconsidered.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1303
Number of pages23
JournalBMC Health Services Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Australia
  • Healthcare policy
  • Knowledge brokering
  • Process improvement
  • Receptive context

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