The Learning Healthcare System: Where are we now? A systematic review

J Biomed Inform. 2016 Dec;64:87-92. doi: 10.1016/j.jbi.2016.09.018. Epub 2016 Sep 28.


Background and objective: The Learning Healthcare System paradigm has attracted the attention of researchers worldwide. The great potential originating from high-scale health data reuse and the inclusion of patient perspectives into care models promises personalized care, lower costs of health services and minimized consumption of resources. The aim of this review is to summarize the attempts to adopt the novel paradigm, putting emphasis on implementations and evaluating the impact on current medical practices.

Method: PRISMA methodology was followed for structuring the review process. Three major research databases (PubMed, IEEE Xplore and ACM DL) were queried with the predefined search terms "learning healthcare" and "learning health". Publications containing specific theoretical or empirical results were considered.

Results: Three hundred and fifty-eight publications were identified; however, only 32 met the inclusion criteria. Nineteen papers were characterized as theoretical contributions, while the rest presented empirical achievements. Only one paper described the initial estimates of impact and economy.

Discussion: Individualistic communication of studies ignoring popular frameworks for assessing and reporting research achievements prevents the systematic generation of knowledge. Evaluating the impact of the Learning Healthcare System instances where it is implemented could work as a catalyst in reaching higher acceptance and adoption of the proposed ideas by healthcare worldwide; however, it mostly remains described in theory.

Conclusions: The review demonstrated the interest of researchers in exploring the Learning Healthcare System ideas. However, it also revealed minimal focus on evaluating the impact of the novel paradigm on both healthcare service delivery and patient outcome.

Keywords: Data reuse; Impact evaluation; Learning healthcare; Personalized care.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Delivery of Health Care*
  • Humans
  • Learning
  • Statistics as Topic*