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Clinical networks have been established to improve patient outcomes and processes of care by implementing a range of innovations and undertaking projects based on the needs of local health services. Given the significant investment in clinical networks internationally, it is important to assess their effectiveness and sustainability. This qualitative study investigated the views of stakeholders on the factors they thought were influential in terms of overall network success.


Ten participants were interviewed using face-to-face, audio-recorded semi-structured interviews about critical factors for networks’ successes over the study period 2006–2008. Respondents were purposively selected from two stakeholder groups: i) chairs of networks during the study period of 2006–2008 from high- moderate- and low-impact networks (as previously determined by an independent review panel) and ii) experts in the clinical field of the network who had a connection to the network but who were not network members. Participants were blind to the performance of the network they were interviewed about. Transcribed data were coded and analysed to generate themes relating to the study aims.


Themes relating to influential factors critical to network success were: network model principles; leadership; formal organisational structures and processes; nature of network projects; external relationships; profile and credibility of the network.


This study provides clinical networks with guidance on essential factors for maximising optimal network outcomes and that may assist networks to move from being a ’low-impact’ to ‘high-impact’ network. Important ingredients for successful clinical networks were visionary and strategic leadership with strong links to external stakeholders; and having formal infrastructure and processes to enable the development and management of work plans aligned with health priorities.

Document Type

Open Access Journal Article

Access Rights

Open Access


© 2015 McInnes et al. Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.