Health care has been famously characterized as “complicated.” As such, we need a robust, evidence-informed toolkit to address the complex attributes of health and health care in an effort to improve outcomes for both individuals and populations. The research community plays an integral role in designing, testing, and implementing approaches that lead to better outcomes, often relying on delivery systems and their rich data resources to support this work. Understanding what works in a single health system is necessary but not sufficient to achieve enterprise-wide change, however.  We need to know how to scale and spread what works.

The Health Care Systems Research Network (HCSRN), formerly the HMO Research Network, has been collaborating for nearly 25 years with a shared mission and ethos to improve individual and population health by leveraging the core assets of our health systems—denominated patient populations, scientists working in “embedded” research units, and data resources. As the concept of a learning health system has taken hold, we have aspired to use our collective capabilities to turn this concept into concrete action. To this end, we are partnering with AcademyHealth to co-produce a special issue of eGEMs that highlights collaboration, applied research, and the ability of delivery system-based researchers to leverage comprehensive longitudinal electronic health data.

The HCSRN’s research, particularly over the last decade, has created partnerships and impact beyond its membership. Numerous “sub-networks” devoted to particular issues such as cancer, mental health, cardiovascular disease, and addiction have substantially expanded the scientific knowledge base while broadening the extended family of HCSRN collaborators. In a similar vein, the FDA Sentinel Initiative includes numerous HCSRN partners working alongside academic institutions, insurers, and other leading health systems. Sentinel has utilized the HCSRN’s common data model (known as the Virtual Data Warehouse, or VDW) to develop the Sentinel Common Data Model—an unparalleled utility for monitoring the performance of FDA-regulated medical products. Members of the HCSRN also participate in the National Patient-Centered Clinical Research Network, PCORnet, partnering on multiple Clinical Data Research Networks. It’s fair to say that team-based science is part of our DNA.

An important facet of delivery system-based research is connecting it back into everyday clinical practice. Pragmatic clinical trials, which are typically conducted in real-world health system settings with highly generalizable populations, offer the opportunity to create a more seamless pathway from successful intervention to sustainable practice change. Further to that, given the myriad challenges in implementing results in clinical care, eGEMs is currently seeking submissions that provide examples of partnerships between researchers and operational leaders and frontline clinical providers to include in the forthcoming HCSRN-sponsored special issue. 

We need to bring the best available evidence to every patient, every encounter, every time. In the parlance of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, evidence-informed care must become an “always event.” This is the realization of the full potential of the learning health system, and we know that across the HCSRN and health research community, you have studies that are making that realization a reality. We hope you’ll consider this eGEMs special issue as a venue for sharing your work.

Read the full call for papers here and submit today!

Sarah Greene

Sarah Greene, M.P.H.

Executive Director - Health Care Systems Research Network (HCSRN)

Sarah Greene, MPH, is the Executive Director of the Health Care Systems Research Network (HCSRN, formerly the ... Read Bio