Early Glimpses of the Learning Healthcare System: The Potential Impact of Health IT
EHRs enhance research capabilities by providing data that captures patient outcomes, is proximate to the point of care, and is available in near real-time. With such data, research becomes an important tool in the iterative innovation process referred to as the “learning health care system.” This report looks at the types of inquiry in delivery systems facilitated by EHRs, including quality improvement (QI) analysis, health services research (HSR), analysis to identify opportunities for workflow efficiency, training and research involving simulations, collaborative
research with other organizations, public health research, and new types of clinical and basic scientific investigation. The report finds that the ability to analyze EHR data in delivery systems has begun to blur traditional distinctions between research, especially HSR, and QI, creating new opportunities for multidisciplinary innovation in care delivery and the development of new research methodologies. At the same time, using EHR data for such inquiry requires particular sensitivity to hardware and software capabilities, data quality, and differences between cultures of research and health care delivery.