Academic Learning Health System Toolkit

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About the Academic Learning Health System Toolkit

The Institute of Medicine defines a learning health system as “one in which knowledge generation is so embedded into the core of the practice of medicine that it is a natural outgrowth and product of the healthcare delivery process and leads to continual improvement in care.”

On its face, a fundamental connection to knowledge generation suggests that academic health centers could effortlessly become learning health systems and exemplars of the triple aim—achieving continually improving, high value, patient centered care. In reality, even the most nimble academic health center will struggle to balance its tripartite mission—research, education, and patient care—with this transformation.

At the University of Wisconsin – Madison, we are tackling this challenge as are other academic health systems across the country. Along the way, we are discovering strategies, resources, and tools that move us forward. In 2014, UW-Madison received a Learning Health System Research Champion Award from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).

The Academic Learning Health System Toolkit contains a set of presentations given by researchers, clinicians, and health system administrators at the University of Wisconsin – Madison and UW Health during a day-long conference on “Building an Academic Learning Health System.” This conference was part of a site visit to UW-Madison by leaders from 11 academic health centers who had received Association of American Medical Colleges Learning Health System Research Awards

Who should use this toolkit?

This toolkit is intended for researchers, clinicians, and health system administrators who are interested in optimizing the quality improvement work done at their institutions and/or bridging the gap between research and practice.

What does the toolkit contain?

The presentations in this toolkit highlight a variety of methods and partnerships that have been developed to maximize the integration of research and healthcare practice. These include the following topics:

  • Identifying the key components of an academic learning health system
  • Finding the right people and tools
  • Engaging patients, staff, and community in quality improvement
  • Engaging clinical faculty in research and publishing (view more on this topic here)
  • Fast-tracking IRB approval for quality improvement
  • Integrating quality improvement activities with Maintenance of Certification
  • Leveraging data to support population health
  • Identifying patients for population management
  • The value of partners in research on healthcare system redesign
  • Conducting research on interventions within the health system
  • Disseminating effective programs and tools

Development of this toolkit

Development of this toolkit was supported by the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health’s Health Innovation Program (HIP), UW Health, the Wisconsin Partnership Program, and the Community-Academic Partnerships core of the University of Wisconsin Institute for Clinical and Translational Research (UW ICTR), grant 9 U54 TR000021 from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (previously grant 1 UL1 RR025011 from the National Center for Research Resources). Many of the projects described in the toolkit were funded separately; in these cases, the funding is cited in the individual presentation.

The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health or other funders.

Toolkit Citation

Health Innovation Program. Academic Learning Health System Toolkit. UW Health Innovation Program, UW – Madison School of Medicine and Public Health, UW Health; 2015. Available at:

About the Developers

The Academic Learning Health System Toolkit was developed by academic and health system leaders who are affiliated with the Health Innovation Program at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.