Advancing the Role of Rapid Learning in Mainstream Health Care

A Progress Report on an Effort to Improve Quality, Safety and Efficiency - Directed by Lynn Etheredge

Field of Work: Using rapid learning to promote evidence-based medicine and spread best practices

Problem Synopsis: The evidence for which medical technologies, medications, and procedures work best is the weakest for patients with multiple chronic conditions and disabilities. This results in escalating health care costs and quality and safety problems.

Synopsis of the Work: Health policy expert Lynn Etheredge of George Washington University’s Health Insurance Reform Project developed and is promoting the idea of a rapid-learning health system, which involves using electronic health records to create large, searchable national databases with personal health information de-identified. Researchers analyze these data to figure out how to improve the quality, safety, and cost effectiveness of medical technologies, medications, and procedures.

Key Results

  • To spread the concept of a rapid-learning health system, Etheredge organizes meetings and workshops, speaks at conferences, meets and collaborates with experts and federal health policy staff, networks constantly, and writes journal articles, white papers, reports, and blog entries.

    He has worked with health care executives and researchers to show federal health policy staff how rapid learning applies to federal programs such as Medicare and Medicaid:

    • A $10-billion Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation, which is charged with rapidly researching, testing, and disseminating information on new models for health care delivery and financing (part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010).
    • Funding ($1.1 billion) for comparative effectiveness research—a process to compare different ways to diagnose, treat, prevent or monitor disease—in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

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