BACKGROUND: Previous research suggests that multidisciplinary team communication networks enhance knowledge exchange, learning, and quality of care in health organizations. However, little is known about team members' reliance on face-to-face versus electronic-based communication networks for information and knowledge exchange. PURPOSE: The aim of the study was to describe patterns of face-to-face versus electronic-based communication networks in a multidisciplinary team and to explore the relationships between team communication networks and performance, measured as promptness of treatment implementation. METHODOLOGY: We collected data on work-based communication among members of a multidisciplinary tumor board (MDT) in a large Italian research hospital. A social network survey was administered in 2016 to all board members to gather network data on face-to-face interaction and the use of electronically based communication channels (e-mail, text messages, and WhatsApp) for sharing clinical knowledge. Twenty physicians (71%) completed the survey. Archival data were accessed to obtain detailed information about 222 clinical cases discussed over a 1-year period during weekly MDT meetings. Minutes of board meetings were used to link all discussed cases to team members. We used the multiple regression quadratic assignment procedure (MR-QAP) to study associations between team member characteristics and communication networks. Negative binomial regression was employed to test relationships between team communication networks and performance. RESULTS: MDT members relied on different communication channels for knowledge sharing. The geographical proximity of team members positively predicted the frequency of face-to-face interaction. Physicians' seniority was related to the use of WhatsApp as a communication channel; greater interaction of this type was observed between team members of different seniority. Performance was related positively to face-to-face communication networks but negatively to communication via WhatsApp. PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS: Although team communication networks are important for knowledge exchange, health administrators must pay attention to the increasing propensity of team members to rely on electronic-based communication. The use of these easy-to-use tools can hinder the quality of group discussion and debate.
- communication, social networks, team dynamics, tumor board, WhatsApp