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Study: Learning Health Systems Improve Care, Reduce Costs

December 28, 2016

Recent research in Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology showed that establishing learning health systems—in which electronic health records (EHRs) are used to drive research and personalized treatments—maximized high-quality patient care while reducing overall health care costs.

Although current efforts are underway to establish learning health systems that are designed around the integration of EHRs from multiple hospitals, technical barriers led the researchers to consider “local” learning health systems. According to an editorial published in JAMA, a more localized system helps to integrate research, clinical care, and quality improvement within a specific health service. These data allow the hospitals to improve care and implement cost savings initiatives.

"Introducing electronic health record-supported care that integrated clinical care, quality improvement and distinct, clinician-driven research resulted in large reductions in health care utilization, greatly reduced health care charges and improved care coordination," William E Smoyer, MD, vice president of clinical and translational research at Nationwide Children's Hospital, said in a press release.

Dr Smoyer and colleagues implemented a local learning health system model of care while utilizing electronic health records and care coordination. The project, “Learn From Every Patient” (LFEP), examined 131 children who were treated through the Nationwide Children’s Cerebral Palsy Program.

The researchers found that implementing a local learning health systems simultaneously improved care and reduced costs. According to the findings, children who were treated in the LFEP Program over 12 months had a 43% reduction in total inpatient days, a 27% reduction in inpatient admissions, a 30% reduction in emergency department visits, and a 29% reduction in urgent care visits.

Researchers also found that the LFEP Program resulted in approximately $1.36 million in health care cost reductions. Implementation of the pilot program, including care coordination expenses totaled approximately $225,000 over the first year.

"These results demonstrate that a learning health system can be developed and implemented in a cost effective manner, and can integrate clinical care and research to systematically drive simultaneous clinical quality improvement and reduced health care costs," Peter Embi, MD, MS, associate professor and interim chair of biomedical informatics and chief research information officer at Ohio State University, said in a press release.

Julie Gould (Mazurkiewicz)

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