Commenced in January 2007
Frequency: Monthly
Edition: International
Paper Count: 30579
Improving Knowledge Management Practices in the South African Healthcare System

Authors: Kgabo H. Badimo, Sheryl Buckley


Knowledge is increasingly recognised in this, the knowledge era, as a strategic resource, by public sector organisations, in view of the public sector reform initiatives. People and knowledge play a vital role in attaining improved organisational performance and high service quality. Many government departments in the public sector have started to realise the importance of knowledge management in streamlining their operations and processes. This study focused on knowledge management in the public healthcare service organisations, where the concept of service provider competitiveness pales to insignificance, considering the huge challenges emanating from the healthcare and public sector reforms. Many government departments are faced with challenges of improving organisational performance and service delivery, improving accountability, making informed decisions, capturing the knowledge of the aging workforce, and enhancing partnerships with stakeholders. The purpose of this paper is to examine the knowledge management practices of the Gauteng Department of Health in South Africa, in order to understand how knowledge management practices influence improvement in organisational performance and healthcare service delivery. This issue is explored through a review of literature on dominant views on knowledge management and healthcare service delivery, as well as results of interviews with, and questionnaire responses from, the general staff of the Gauteng Department of Health. Web-based questionnaires, face-to-face interviews and organisational documents were used to collect data. The data were analysed using both the quantitative and qualitative methods. The central question investigated was: To what extent can the conditions required for successful knowledge management be observed, in order to improve organisational performance and healthcare service delivery in the Gauteng Department of Health. The findings showed that the elements of knowledge management capabilities investigated in this study, namely knowledge creation, knowledge sharing and knowledge application, have a positive, significant relationship with all measures of organisational performance and healthcare service delivery. These findings thus indicate that by employing knowledge management principles, the Gauteng Department of Health could improve its ability to achieve its operational goals and objectives, and solve organisational and healthcare challenges, thereby improving organisational performance and enhancing healthcare service delivery in Gauteng.

Keywords: Knowledge Management, Public Sector, public healthcare, Healthcare Service Delivery

Digital Object Identifier (DOI):

Procedia APA BibTeX Chicago EndNote Harvard JSON MLA RIS XML ISO 690 PDF Downloads 3455


[1] C. Agrawal, B. Agrawal, and B. Chandak, Knowledge management: A strategic approach towards the increasing pace of innovation and organisational performance, TECNIA Journal of Management Studies, 2007, 2(1), pp. 1-4.
[2] L. Amado, N. Christofides, R. Pieters, and J. Rusch, National Health Insurance: A lofty ideal in need of cautious planned implementation: forum. South African Journal of Bioethics and Law, 2012, 5(1), pp. 4- 10.
[3] V. S. Anantatmula, and S. Kanungo, Modelling enablers for successful KM implementation. Journal of Knowledge Management, 2010, 14(1), pp. 100-113.
[4] D. Anry, L.C Jacobs, and A. Razavieh, Introduction to Research in Education. Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1996
[5] E. Arora, Knowledge management in public sector. Journal of Arts Science & Commerce ISSN, 2229(4686), 2011.
[6] J.E. Bartlett, J.W. Kotrlik, and C.C. Higgins. "Organizational research: Determining appropriate sample size in survey research" Information technology, learning, and performance journal, 2001, 19(1) pp. 43-50.
[7] P. Bazeley, and K. Jackson, (Eds.), Qualitative data analysis with NVivo. Sage Publications Limited, London EC1Y 1SP, 2013.
[8] Y. Bayda, A comparative analysis of the healthcare systems. Doctoral Thesis. ID Number: 165931. Department of Economia e Finanza, Libera Universita Internazionale degli Studi Sociali, 2013.
[9] F. Becker, Organisational ecology and knowledge networks. California Management Review, 2007, 49(2): pp. 42-60.
[10] E.H. Bradley, L.A. Curry, and K.J. Devers, Qualitative data analysis for health services research: Developing taxonomy, themes, and theory. Health Services Research, 2007, 42(4), 1758-1772.
[11] S.L. Caudle, Qualitative data analysis. Handbook of Practical Program, 2004, 19, 417.
[12] J. Child, Strategic choices in healthcare, with reference to the UK National Health Service. European Journal of International Management, 2013, 7(2), pp. 139-158.
[13] X. Cong, R. Li-Hua, and G. Stonehouse, Knowledge management in the Chinese public sector: Empirical investigation, Journal of Technology Management in China, 2007, 2(3): 250 – 263.
[14] H. Coovadia, R. Jewkes, P. Barron, D. Sanders, and D. Mcintyre, The health and health system of South Africa: Historical roots of current public health challenges. The Lancet, 2009, 374(9692), pp. 817-834.
[15] J.W. Cox, and J. Hassard, Triangulation in organizational research: A representation. Organization. 2005, 12 (1), pp. 109-133
[16] A. DeNisi, M. Hitt, and S. JACKSON, The Knowledge-based Approach to Sustainable Competitive Advantage. Managing knowledge for sustained competitive advantage: Designing strategies for effective human resource management, 2003, pp.3-33.
[17] M. Du Plessis, The role of knowledge management in innovation. Journal of Knowledge Management, 2007, 11(4), pp. 20-29.
[18] DoH (National Department of Health), Revised Draft Health Charter, 2005, available from pdf. (Accessed 21 July 2014).
[19] C. El Morr, and J. Subercaze, Knowledge management in healthcare. Handbook of Research on Developments in e-Health and Telemedicine: Technological and Social Perspectives, 2010, pp. 490-510.
[20] L. Frisina, Policy values and policy change in different healthcare systems: A comparative analysis of the British NHS and US private insurance system, Harvard Health Policy Review, 2008, 9, I: pp. 88-99.
[21] S. Gaffoor, and F. Cloete, Knowledge management in local government: The case of Stellenbosch Municipality. SA Journal of Information Management, 2010, 12(1), 7-pages.
[22] S. Gorard, and C. Taylor, What is triangulation? Building research capacity. Journal of the ESRC Teaching and Learning Research Programme Research Capacity Building Network, 2004, 7, pp. 7-9.
[23] C. Grobler, and I.C. Stuart, Health care provider choice. South African Journal of Economics, 2007, 75(2), pp. 327-350.
[24] M. Herbert, Reforming health care. Chisholm Health Ethics Bulletin, 2004, 10(2), pp. 1.
[25] Y.C. Hu, Research on relationship of knowledge management and organisational performance, International Conference on Management of e-Commerce and e-Government 2009, ICMECG’09, 2009, pp. 281- 283. IEEE.
[26] M. Ingle, Public policy and Batho Pele in South Africa: Time to turn over a new leaf. Journal for New Generation Sciences, 2011, 9(1), pp. 67-80.
[27] R.B. Johnson, and A.J. Onwuegbuzie, Mixed methods research: A research paradigm whose time has come. Educational researcher, 2004, 33(7), 14-26.
[28] G.D. Israel, Determining sample size. Gainville, FL: Florida State University, 2009.
[29] A. Kagee, Treatment adherence in South African primary health care: Original research. South African Family Practice, 2004, 46(10), pp. 26.
[30] H.N. Khalilabad, O.N. Mazandarani, I. Sentosa, and S.K. Piaralal, The impact of knowledge management on customer relationship management. Journal of American Academy of Business, 2006, 9(2).
[31] Y.M. Kim, D. Newby-Bennett, and H.J. Song, Knowledge sharing and institutionalism in the healthcare industry. Journal of Knowledge Management, 2012, 16(3), pp 480-494.
[32] R.V. Krejcie, and D.W. Morgan, Determining sample size for research activities. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 1970, 30, pp. 607-610.
[33] H.F. Lin, and G.G. Lee, Impact of organizational learning and knowledge management factors on e-business adoption. Management Decision, 2005, 43 (2), pp. 171–188.
[34] B.M. Mayosi, J.E. Lawn, A. Van Niekerk, D. Bradshaw, S.S. Abdool Karim, and H.M. Coovadia, Health in South Africa: Changes and challenges since 2009. The Lancet, 2012, 380(9858), pp. 2029-2043.
[35] C. Manicom, Where do our patients die? A review of the place of death of cancer patients in Cape Town, South Africa. Palliative and Supportive Care, 2011, 9(01), pp. 31-41.
[36] A. Mannie, H.J. Van Niekerk, and C.M. Adendorff, Significant factors for enabling knowledge sharing between government agencies within South Africa. SA Journal of Information Management, 2013, 15(2), 8- pages.
[37] V. Mele, and E. Ongaro, Public sector reform in a context of political instability: Italy 1992–2007. International Public Management Journal, 2014, 17(1), pp. 111-142.
[38] K.S. Metaxiotis, Healthcare Knowledge Management. Encyclopedia of knowledge management. Schwartz, D. G. (Ed.). 2006. Idea Group Inc, Convent Garden London, WC2E 8LU. 2011, pp. 204-210.
[39] A.M. Mills, and T.A. Smith, Knowledge management and organisational performance: A decomposed view. Journal of Knowledge Management, 2011, 15(1), pp. 156-171.
[40] M.Y. Mphahlele, Knowledge management practices in the South African public sector 2002-2008 (Doctoral dissertation, Stellenbosch: University of Stellenbosch), 2010.
[41] M. Muller, M. Bezuidenhout, K. Jooste, M.C. Bezuidenhout, and M.E. Muller, Healthcare Service Management. Juta and Company Ltd. Cape Town, South Africa, 2011.
[42] V. Murray, and A. Kessel, Setting disaster research priorities. In Disaster Bioethics: Normative Issues When Nothing is Normal, Netherlands: Springer, 2014, pp. 143-157.
[43] National Treasury, Estimates of national expenditure budget 2013 Vote 16: Health, 2013, Available: national%20budget/2013/enebooklets/Vote%2016%20Health.pdf. (Accessed 23 April 2014).
[44] R.H. Nengwekhulu, Public service delivery challenges facing the South African public service. Journal of Public Administration, 2009, 44(2), pp. 341-363.
[45] T.T. Nguyen, R.W. Smyth, and G.G. Gable, Knowledge management issues and practices: A case study of a professional services firm. Fifteenth Australasian Conference on Information Systems, December 1- 3, 2004, Hobart, Tasmania.
[46] I. Nonaka, G. Von Krogh, and S. Voelpel, Organisational knowledge creation theory: evolutionary paths and future advances. Organisation studies, 2006, 27(8), pp. 1179-1208.
[47] K. North, and G. Kumta, Strategies for managing knowledge. In Knowledge Management, 2014. pp. 151-192, Springer International Publishing.
[48] C. Pathirage, R.D.G. Amaratunga, and R.P. Haigh, Knowledge management and organisational performance: A literature review. Research Institute for Built and Human Environment, University of Salford, Salford M7 1NU, 2004.
[49] PCS (Public Service Commission). Consolidated report on Inspections of Primary Health Care Delivery Sites: Department of Health, 2010, Available from (Accessed 24 April 2014).
[50] R.A. Perkins, Using research-based practices to increase response rates of web-based surveys. Educause Quarterly, 2011.
[51] C.J. Pretorius, and H. Steyn, Knowledge management in project environments. Southern African Journal of Business Management, 2005, 36(3), pp. 41-50.
[52] M.N. Ramuvhundu, Evaluating the impact of local government performance management systems on service delivery (Doctoral dissertation, University of South Africa), 2012.
[53] S.A. Raturi, and P.E. Jack, Lessons learned from methodological triangulation in management research. Management Research News. 2006, 29(6), pp. 345-357.
[54] A.B. Rust, and J.J. De Jager. Leadership in public health care: Staff satisfaction in selected South African hospitals. African Journal of Business Management, 2010, 4(11), pp. 2277-2287.
[55] N. Schaay, D. Sanders, and V. Kruger, Overview of health sector reforms in South Africa, Human Development Resource Center, London, 2011.
[56] R. Sharkie, Knowledge creation and its place in the development of sustainable competitive advantage, Journal of Knowledge Management, 2003, 7(1), pp. 20–31.
[57] N.M. Tshirado, Information orientation of a public organisation: A qualitative case study of the information orientation in the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Doctoral dissertation, Stellenbosch: Stellenbosch University), 2013.
[58] A.M. Tzortzaki, and A. Mihiotis, A review of knowledge management theory and future directions. Knowledge and Process Management, 2014, 21(1), pp. 29-41.
[59] F.A. Uriarte, Introduction to knowledge management. ASEAN Foundation, Jakarta, Indonesia, 2008.
[60] Vambe, A. K. An Examination of Health Care Financing Models: Lessons for South Africa. Journal of Finance, Accounting and Management, 2014, 5(1), 161-217
[61] L. Van Der Loos, To stay ahead, you must never stop learning. The Star, Workplace. 2008, Wednesday April 23.
[62] H. Wadee, and F. Khan, Human resources for health: Health care delivery. South African health review, 2007, pp. 141-149.
[63] WHO (World Health OrganisationPrimary healthcare. ). 2012. Available from (accessed June 28, 2014).
[64] N. Wickramasinghe, Implicit and explicit knowledge assets in healthcare. In Pervasive Health Knowledge Management, 2013, pp. 15- 26, Springer New York.
[65] N. Wickramasinghe, and G. Davison, Making explicit the implicit knowledge assets in healthcare: The case of multidisciplinary teams in care and cure environments. Health Care Management Science, 2004, 7(3), pp. 185-195.
[66] N. Wickramasinghe, Building a learning healthcare organisation by fostering organisational learning through a process centric view of knowledge management. International Journal of Innovation and Learning, 2008, 5(2), pp. 201-216.
[67] A. Wildschut, and T. Mqolozana, Shortage of nurses in South Africa: Relative or absolute. Part of study: A multiple source identification and verification of scarce and critical skills in the South African labour market: Human Sciences Research Council, Department of Labour. 2008.
[68] A. Willem, and M. Buelens, Knowledge sharing in public sector organisations: The effect of organisational characteristics on interdepartmental knowledge sharing. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 2007, 17(4), pp. 581-606.
[69] World Bank, World Development Report 2004: Making Services Work for Poor People, World Bank and Washington, D.C: Oxford University Press. 2004.