The Rapid Learning Project

Because most clinical studies are relatively small and don't pertain to the experiences of the 'typical patient' who walks into their offices, doctors are challenged to give patients an honest answer about how a drug or treatment will affect them personally.

To fill these knowledge gaps, researcher Lynn Etheredge and a team at George Washington University, with support from RWJF, developed and popularized the concept of a rapid-learning health system.

By crunching vast amounts of data from the electronic health records of millions of real-world patients, we can quickly get information about the most effective technologies, drugs and procedures into the hands of medical practitioners.

Etheredge’s work guided the launch of the first prototype of a rapid learning model for the treatment of breast cancer. Rapid learning is now being adopted by Medicare and Medicaid, the National Institutes of Health, the National Cancer Institute, and the National Science Foundation. 


George Washington University

Washington, D.C.

Sally Coberly
Project Director

Lori A. Melichar

Lori Melichar, team director

Knowing What Works in Health Care

“This project has changed how we think about science and collaboration,” says Lori Melichar, RWJF team director. “By harnessing all of this vast data on disease and patient experiences in real time, rapid learning is giving us the tools and knowledge to develop optimal treatments for things like cancer and Alzheimer’s and get them into the hands of doctors and patients in ways that will make a meaningful difference in outcomes.”

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A rapid learning health care system helps us better tailor care for Alzheimer’s & cancer patients

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A Rapid Learning System Prototype

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation supported Lynn Etheredge, Ph.D., in his research to promote a rapid learning health system. His research led to the creation of CancerLinQ, a database-driven tool that provides valuable information to doctors about their patients' unique needs and was developed by The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).

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