AHRQ Views

Blog posts from AHRQ leaders

Andy Bindman, M.D. Director of AHRQAHRQ is embarking on a journey to use research to support the transformation of health care organizations into learning health care systems. I’m convinced there is great potential for AHRQ to catalyze the work already underway within health care organizations to improve patient care by expanding and building on the use of evidence.

AHRQ has stepped up its activities in this area in part because of the potential of learning health care systems to make a difference in the care that patients receive. The Agency’s Comparative Health System Performance Initiative aims to develop a set of measures that can help health care organizations to chart their progress toward becoming learning health care systems. In addition, we’ve committed significant funding to explore the potential of health information technology to generate, adopt, and apply evidence. We’re also directing training investments toward people embedded within learning health care systems.

As AHRQ and others explore these areas, many good ideas are emerging about the best ways to systematically apply evidence to patient care. Momentum is growing. With that in mind, we think the time is right to broaden the discussion.

A "Request for Information" just published in the Federal Register is AHRQ’s official invitation to health care delivery organizations to share what they’re learning about the challenges and solutions on the way to becoming learning health care systems.

As described in the notice, AHRQ is hoping for feedback on a series of important questions. Here are a few:

  • How are learning health care systems using research findings to inform clinical and organizational improvements in health care delivery, design, and efficiency?
  • Are learning health care systems using their own data to inform strategies to address population health and health care disparities?
  • What methodological and/or data quality issues have been encountered by health care delivery organizations in generating evidence using their own data?
  • How do learning health care systems ensure that evidence either generated from their own data and/or adopted from external research is applied in a consistent manner throughout the organization, including across different specialties, levels of care, and clinical sites?
  • What metrics are learning health care systems using to:
    • Understand the degree to which they are funding as such a system?
    • Monitor progress on their rate of moving clinical evidence into practice?
    • Evaluate the consistency of application of evidence across the organization?
  • How are learning health care systems involving patients and families in their efforts?
  • What evidence, tools, training, methods, data, or measures could AHRQ develop or provide that would have a significant impact on the ability of health care delivery organizations to utilize their own data, use externally produced data and evidence, and meet their own quality and safety goals?

These and other questions are emerging at a time when several trends within health care delivery are increasing the potential for the development of learning health care systems. Shifts in payment models, for example, are creating incentives for organizations to engage in population management to improve quality and value. The consolidation of health care practitioners provides a rich resource of shared clinical data that can be used to generate new knowledge about best practices. Practitioners working together also have an ability to pool resources to monitor new research findings and to systematically adopt them into practice at an organizational level.  And, information technology, such as clinical decision support tied to electronic health records, makes it increasingly possible to support a common understanding of the evidence across practitioners in a health care organization.  

As our new Request for Information attests, we’re eager for your ideas about the best ways to take advantage of these opportunities. Your comments letting us know if you think we are moving in the right direction, as well as your insights about what you think our highest priorities should be related to supporting learning health care systems, will be collected until February 28. We will use this information as we pursue new initiatives. Future work may include research grants, the creation of tools and training materials for health professionals and health care delivery organizations, the development of measures for quality improvement, or the creation of learning collaboratives.

Whatever steps we take in future months, we know your input will help. Thanks in advance for sharing your thoughts and expertise!

Page last reviewed January 2017
Page originally created January 2017
Internet Citation: You’re Invited: Join Our Conversation about Learning Health Care Systems. Content last reviewed January 2017. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/news/blog/ahrqviews/join-our-conversation.html