AHRQ Views

Blog posts from AHRQ leaders

Gopal Khanna, Director of AHRQA little more than a week ago, AHRQ convened a summit on learning health systems.

The event was remarkable not simply because it clearly showcased AHRQ’s key roles in quality and safety improvement. It also affirmed the passion of AHRQ stakeholders and our many partners who are devoted to the promise of learning health systems to accelerate improvement across a wide variety of settings.

I think that’s why the concept of learning health systems is so meaningful and potentially valuable. At AHRQ, we view learning health systems as systematic and cyclical:  clinical data are analyzed, creating knowledge; knowledge informs clinical practice;  that clinical practice creates new data, which are analyzed; and the cycle starts all over again.

In other words, what distinguishes learning health organizations is that they collect, adopt, and apply evidence in a systematic way. It’s that deliberate and methodical way of integrating new data and evidence into the care process that sets learning health systems apart. The potential is enormous for improving efficiency and patient care.

Our summit was attended by leaders of health care systems, professional societies, national opinion makers and upcoming leaders, research organizations, Federal and State agencies, and others to discuss the issues before us.

What are the fundamental qualities of a system that continuously learnsand applies data and evidence to improve care? What role does each of the groups that attended the summit play in building learning health systems? And how can AHRQ and other Federal agencies be partners in those efforts?

We are still in the early stages of processing all that we heard—and we heard a lot! Our expert panelists—Karen Feinstein, Michael McGinnis, Mary Naylor, Peter Pronovost, and Lucy Savitz—led provocative sessions on their visions of the learning health  system and its potential to improve clinical practice. A short video with highlights from the summit is available on the learning health systems page on AHRQ’s Web site.]

Further, our summit discussions benefitted from an innovative co-creation model, facilitated by Daniel Wolfson of the American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation, designed to elicit wide participation and active sharing of ideas throughout the day.

Many themes emerged during the summit that were consistent with feedback AHRQ received in response to a request-for-information we issued earlier this year and consideration by the Agency’s National Advisory Council, as well as the pioneering work of the National Academy of Medicine and its Learning Health System Series of roundtables and papers. 

For instance, these themes include: the importance of reliable data and support for organizations in accessing and using large data sets; the need to identify measureable elements of health system performance; leveraging technology to translate evidence and improve health care decision making through tools and other resources; providing clinicians with the skills, incentives, and training to continuously learn; and ensuring that the focus remains on patient-centered care. 

Our summit advanced AHRQ’s ongoing conversation about learning health systems. The ideas and opportunities presented position AHRQ to understand more meaningfully the needs of organizations that seek to become learning health systems and how AHRQ’s tools and resources can help.

We look forward to the road ahead—to being part of the exciting developments aimed at creating a health care system that’s as safe, high quality, and responsive to patients as possible.    

Gopal Khanna is Director of AHRQ.

Page last reviewed September 2017
Page originally created September 2017
Internet Citation: Widening the Circle of Support for Learning Health Systems. Content last reviewed September 2017. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/news/blog/ahrqviews/widening-circle-of-support.html