About Learning Health Systems
Defining a Learning Health System
AHRQ defines a learning health system as a health system in which internal data and experience are systematically integrated with external evidence, and that knowledge is put into practice. As a result, patients get higher quality, safer, more efficient care, and health care delivery organizations become better places to work.
Learning Health Systems—
- Have leaders who are committed to a culture of continuous learning and improvement.
- Systematically gather and apply evidence in real-time to guide care.
- Employ IT methods to share new evidence with clinicians to improve decision-making.
- Promote the inclusion of patients as vital members of the learning team.
- Capture and analyze data and care experiences to improve care.
- Continually assess outcomes refine processes and training to create a feedback cycle for learning and improvement.
No health system becomes a learning health system overnight. Nor is the term “learning health system” widely used yet, even in systems doing this work. Becoming a learning health system is an iterative journey characterized by strong leadership, effective use of data in the clinical setting, and both a culture and workforce committed to continuous learning and improvement.
Becoming a learning health system is also increasingly an imperative in an era of health system transformation. There is growing recognition that “business as usual” is no longer a sustainable model. Driving this change are new Federal and private-sector initiatives to redirect incentives away from volume and toward a focus on value: better patient outcomes and quality at lower costs.
This value-based care framework includes providing clinicians with strong, actionable data and tools—and identifying the right performance metrics to hold them and their teams accountable for their patients’ care. This framework also includes breaking down silos between medical care and community services to prevent disease before it occurs and rewarding providers and health systems for results and not activities.
As more organizations look at value-based care and pursue their learning health system journeys, those that do not rethink how they operate risk being left behind. To assist organizations, AHRQ conducts research and provides training, tools, and data to help health care delivery organizations of every size move towards becoming learning health systems.