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Lessons from the business sector for successful knowledge management in health care: A systematic review

Anita Kothari1*, Nina Hovanec1, Robyn Hastie2 and Shannon Sibbald1

Author Affiliations

1 School of Health Studies, The University of Western Ontario, Labatt Health Sciences Building, Room 222, London, ON, N6A 5B9, Canada

2 Canadian Institutes for Health Information, 495 Richmond Road, Suite 600, Ottawa, Ontario, K2A 4H6, Canada

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BMC Health Services Research 2011, 11:173  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-11-173

Published: 25 July 2011



The concept of knowledge management has been prevalent in the business sector for decades. Only recently has knowledge management been receiving attention by the health care sector, in part due to the ever growing amount of information that health care practitioners must handle. It has become essential to develop a way to manage the information coming in to and going out of a health care organization. The purpose of this paper was to summarize previous studies from the business literature that explored specific knowledge management tools, with the aim of extracting lessons that could be applied in the health domain.


We searched seven databases using keywords such as "knowledge management", "organizational knowledge", and "business performance". We included articles published between 2000-2009; we excluded non-English articles.


83 articles were reviewed and data were extracted to: (1) uncover reasons for initiating knowledge management strategies, (2) identify potential knowledge management strategies/solutions, and (3) describe facilitators and barriers to knowledge management.


KM strategies include such things as training sessions, communication technologies, process mapping and communities of practice. Common facilitators and barriers to implementing these strategies are discussed in the business literature, but rigorous studies about the effectiveness of such initiatives are lacking. The health care sector is at a pinnacle place, with incredible opportunities to design, implement (and evaluate) knowledge management systems. While more research needs to be done on how best to do this in healthcare, the lessons learned from the business sector can provide a foundation on which to build.