Accelerating Care - 'Rapid Learning' Systems Highlighted in Journal of Clinical Oncology

Jun 28, 2010, 5:14 AM, Posted by RWJF Blog Team

Today, the Journal of Clinical Oncology (JCO) published a paper proposing a ‘rapid learning’ (RL) system for the nation to accelerate delivery of optimal cancer care and research. Basically, RL systems use large electronic health databases – representing the experience of millions of patients – to extract knowledge from the available data and accelerate research and treatments.   

The JCO article draws on key findings from a workshop held by the National Cancer Policy Forum of the Institute of Medicine on Oct. 5-6, 2009. Its authors (one of whom—Lynn Etheredge—is a Pioneer grantee), envision a cancer-focused rapid learning system that makes practical use of rapidly growing electronic health data repositories, such as electronic medical record systems, disease registries and databases, to hone in on what works best for individual cancer patients.

But the benefits of RL systems have reach well beyond the cancer community. That’s why we’re supporting work by Etheridge to explore how RL systems can produce evidence-based research to identify best practices and promising innovations, including comparative effectiveness analyses. With electronic health records and high-quality databases, more studies could be done, and they could be done more quickly.

 Lynn calls it “in silico” research, meaning that health research to date has relied on traditional “in vitro” and “in vivo” methods – bench science and experiments. “In silico” methods add large computerized databases, with millions of records & high-speed computers, and Internet-connected research networks – as another major tool for research science.  Drawing on many millions of patient records, RL systems will enable constant reassessment of interventions and outcomes that will help clinicians, researchers, policy makers and patients refine knowledge and learn what works best for whom, and when. The blog Health Affairs plans on posting more of Lynn’s thoughts on this tomorrow, and we’ll be sure to post to that here on Pioneering Ideas when that runs.

We know that policy-makers, clinicians and patients are clamoring for this kind of information power – the IOM has already underscored the urgent need to know what works in health care.  We need to accelerate progress in putting this evidence in their hands by creating a rapid-learning health care system that fuels stronger health policy and health care treatment decisions.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Pioneering Ideas blog.