FAQ for health authorities on learning health systems

Why should health authorities use patient-oriented learning health systems?

This approach has many possible benefits (1):

  • Improved patient outcomes and experiences
  • Optimized the use of knowledge and evidence for decision making
  • Reduced health system costs
  • Increase in equitable access to health services


(1) Learning Healthcare System. Retrieved Feb 1, 2023 from https://learninghealthcareproject.org/background/learning-healthcare-system/

What is needed to build a patient-oriented learning health system in our health authorities?

Health authorities are already starting to implement patient-oriented learning health systems. All health authorities have many of the building blocks needed to support this approach. This includes data systems, clinical knowledge, patient advisory groups and teams focused on research, system optimization, evaluation, and quality improvement.

How does a learning health system differ from quality improvement?

Quality improvement has many of the same elements as the patient-oriented learning health system model.


What’s the same?

  • Both include a cyclical approach to continuous improvement.
  • Both occur in health system environments.
  • Both will usually include training and education to support the changes.
  • Both use data.


What’s different?

Learning health systems tend to (2):

  • include a process for defining priorities for ongoing improvement.
  • include supports like data infrastructure and policies for continuous improvement.
  • involve multiple cycles of learning.
  • use external knowledge, including the scientific and grey literature.
  • share learning with other health systems partners to boost improvements across the system.
  • include considerations of the policy, legal and ethical environments.

(2) Menear, M., Blanchette, MA., Demers-Payette, O. et al. A framework for value-creating learning health systems. Health Res Policy Sys 17, 79 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12961-019-0477-3.