The Rapid Learning Project

The Rapid Learning Project explores national strategies to accelerate the pace of learning about best uses of new biomedical technologies, products, and treatments. Despite tremendous advances in medical science and technology, too often we don't know which treatments are most effective for improving patients' health.

According to Project Director Lynn Etheredge, who coined the term Rapid Learning System, "we are developing treatments and technologies faster than we know how to use them." The Rapid Learning Project seeks to create a nationwide system of databases, providing access to millions of patients' clinical experiences. Using this network of medical databases, researchers are able to access vast amounts of (de-identified) patient data that hold enormous potential for advancing collaborative health policy and clinical research.

The Rapid Learning Project aims to take advantage of two trends — (1) the increasing availability of medical data in electronic health records; and (2) the explosion of Web-based computing capacity — to swiftly gather information on new treatments, drugs, and medical technologies so physicians can immediately apply the findings in medical practice and better tailor care to individual patients.

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George Washington University

Sally Coberly
Project Director

A Rapid Learning System Prototype

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Pioneer Portfolio supported Lynn Etheredge, Ph.D., director of the Rapid Learning Project, in his research to promote a rapid learning health system to address those real-time information needs. His research lead 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).

READ WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING ABOUT The Rapid Learning Project...

...In WSJ:  "Big data is an imperative for the future of medicine."
CancerLinQ is a Rapid Learning cancer system prototype.

Reports and published research from The Rapid Learning Project

A "Rapid-Learning" Health Care System

A "Rapid-Learning" Health Care System

In this Q&A, researcher Lynn Etheredge discusses the potential of a rapid-learning health system and ways it can accelerate our ability to fill in gaps in the clinical evidence base.

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Advancing the Role of Rapid Learning in Mainstream Health Care

Advancing the Role of Rapid Learning in Mainstream Health Care

This RWJF Program Progress Report discusses how health policy expert Lynn Etheredge of George Washington University’s Health Insurance Reform Project developed 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.

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Filling Major Knowledge Gaps About Health Care

Filling Major Knowledge Gaps About Health Care

This RWJF Program Results Report outlines how George Washington University's Health Insurance Reform Project promoted the concept of a rapid-learning health system and advanced its development. The Project generated interest in the concept through journal articles and reports, meetings, presentations, and blog entries.

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Medicare's Future: Cancer Care

Medicare's Future: Cancer Care

This paper in Health Affairs proposes a national initiative for Medicare patients with cancer. It would include: a rapid learning system for comparative effectiveness; a quality measurement system; and payment reforms to reward high-quality care.

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