Filling Major Knowledge Gaps about Health Care

Development of national rapid learning systems

From 2005 to 2010, researchers working on George Washington University's Health Insurance Reform Project, a nonprofit, nonpartisan project, promoted the concept of a rapid-learning health system and advanced its development. A rapid-learning health system involves using millions of electronic health records (with identifying information deleted) in searchable national databases to fill major knowledge gaps about health care and to develop better health care policies.

Rapid learning is especially important in learning about the value of existing and new technologies, since these technologies drive rising health care costs.

The Health Insurance Reform Project generated interest in the concept of a rapid-learning health system through journal articles and reports, meetings, presentations and blog entries. The researchers worked with health care executives and other researchers to show federal health policy staff how to apply rapid learning to federal programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. Several ideas made it into federal laws.

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