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A rapid LEARNING healthcare system: Did we forget something?

The movement towards a rapid learning healthcare system has been gathering steam for just more than a decade. I was first introduced to the idea by its authors and early advocates in 2008:

The objective of a rapid-learning health care system is simply to learn as fast as possible about what is the best treatment for each patient—and deliver it.”—Lynn Etheredge

As I began to familiarize myself with the framework I was both energized by its vision AND slightly concerned by what I saw as a critical flaw – the model largely ignored the actual science of learning.

Over time, as I engaged more and more with the leaders of the Rapid Learning Healthcare System movement, they acknowledged that in their initial view of the world (and I am paraphrasing here), “we assume that the individual clinicians already know ‘how to learn’ once they gain access to the most relevant information…” Unfortunately, as you hopefully understand by now, this is far from true!

Over the past five years the ArcheMedX team has been pioneering efforts to apply the science of learning to transform CME/CPD. In the past year alone we have successfully improved the learning experiences of thousands of healthcare providers and I have been fortunate enough to have lead nearly a dozen workshops helping healthcare educators leverage the science of learning within their own educational interventions. The impact of these efforts are game-changing:

  • Learners are three times more likely to complete an activity!
  • Changes in knowledge and competence are four to six times greater!
  • Learners dive far more deeply into structured curricula!
  • Educators are gaining access to invaluable new forms of learning data!

The Learning Actions Model – the central instructional design model that we use at ArcheMedX – enables educators to think beyond their content and to ensure that the actions that learners take while consuming content are effectively supported and structured. By doing so, the process of learning is made more efficient and learners learn better!

Looking back at our recent work, we have applied the Learning Actions Model to improve staff training and on-boarding; to support the transformation and evolution of patient-centered medical homes; and to scaffold the performance of front-line clinical trial staff. Each of these examples aligns perfectly with the recent efforts of the Rapid Learning Healthcare System movement.

In the end, there have been tremendous strides both nationally and internationally in supporting the emergence of a Rapid Learning Healthcare System. We are proud of the small part we are playing in ensuring that the science of learning is being added back into its necessary vision.

Brian S McGowan, PhD

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Brian is a research scientist and educational technologist. He helped transform Pfizer’s Medical Education Group and previously served in educational leadership roles at HealthAnswers, Inc.; Acumentis, LLC.; Cephalon; and Wyeth. He taught graduate medical education programs at Arcadia University for 10 years. Dr. McGowan recently authored the book "#socialQI: Simple Solutions for Improving Your Healthcare" and has been invited to speak internationally on the subject of information flow, technology, and learning in healthcare.

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