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AHRQ, PCORI to Fund Learning Health System Research, Training

AHRQ and PCORI will jointly fund a project focused on promoting best practices for a learning health system.

Learning Health System

Source: Thinkstock

By Kate Monica

- The Agency of Research and Quality (AHRQ) is teaming up with the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) to award grants of up to $8 million to nearly a dozen career development programs in an effort to promote a sustainable learning health system workforce.

As many as ten program applicants will earn institutional career development awards for training clinician and research scientists to conduct research about learning health systems.  

Establishing a functioning learning health system is one of ONC’s top priorities alongside achieving true interoperability.

Learning health systems are designed to systematically integrate internal data and experience with external evidence to allow for higher quality, safer, and more efficient patient care.

“The Learning Health System is a model in which both institutional and clinical practice partners are actively engaged and participate in the generation, adoption, and application of evidence,” stated AHRQ in an announcement on the National Institute of Health (NIH) website.

According to AHRQ, some defining qualities of learning health systems include a focus on employing IT methods to share new evidence with clinicians for improved clinical decision making, as well as continual outcomes assessment to refine processes and foster a cycle of learning and improvement. 

Main objectives of the learning health system research program include the following: 

  • Develop and implement a training program that includes both didactic and experiential learning and embeds the scholars at the interface of research, informatics, and clinical operations within learning health systems;
  • Identify, recruit, and train clinician and research scientists who are committed to conducting patient-centered outcome research in healthcare settings that generate new evidence to facilitate rapid implementation that will improve quality of care and patient outcomes;
  • Establish Centers of Excellence in Learning Health System Research Training focusing on the application and mastery of the newly developed core LHS researcher competencies; and
  • Support a Learning Collaborative across funded Centers of Excellence in LHS Research Training to promote cross institutional scholar-mentor interactions, cooperation on multi-site projects, dissemination of project findings, methodological advances, and the development of a shared curriculum.

As part of the program, winning institutions will also be required to participate in the AHRQ and PCORI-led Learning Collaborative. The joint effort will focus on improving participating institutions’ understanding of best practices for training in a learning health system, which will be performed in a collaborative model both within and between different institutions.

“Further, the collaborative will serve as a national forum to promote cross institutional scholar-mentor interactions, cooperation on multi-site projects, dissemination of project findings, methodological advances, and the development of a shared curriculum that can in time be delivered online,” states the the grant notice. “The online shared curriculum should result in a comprehensive and efficient training model within the participating institutions and expand the reach of the program to other health systems.”

Applicants must establish collaborative relationships with at least one health system, according to AHRQ. Health systems part of a PCORnet Clinical Data Research Network (CDRN) are encouraged to discuss how clinical data could be linked to the common data format. However, participation in PCORNet is not required.

Non-academic institutions can apply to the program but must partner with an academic institution to allow for formal and educational training. Additionally, all applicants will be expected to recruit and train candidates outside of their own institution to extend experiential research opportunities to others.

The Learning Collaborative will also host monthly web-based meetings and annual in-person meetings to discuss and evaluate training program and Learning Collaborative activities at all participating institutions. 

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