Group Health aims to put medical research into practice faster

Group Health wants to ensure that medical innovations aren't tossed by the wayside simply because of lag time between when ideas are created and when they're implemented in doctors' offices.

So the Seattle-based insurer is implementing a strategy called a "learning health system" that connects Group Health's medical and research departments. The learning health system will allow doctors to recommend areas where research is needed and offer researchers a way to help doctors evaluate the new developments, Kaiser Health News reported.

"In a learning health system, evidence and practice come together in a virtuous cycle, influencing each other," Sarah Greene, Group Health's director of strategy and business development, said in a paper published Tuesday in the Annals of Internal Medicine. "At Group Health, we strive to translate evidence into practice and policy quickly. At the same time, we try to align our research with the questions that clinicians and administrators need to answer ASAP."

In effect, Group Health's system means new ideas can be implemented while they're being researched, and doctors can evaluate changes in their care delivery.

Keys to Group Health's successful implementation of the learning health system are strong leadership support and an open and flexible partnership between research and clinical operations that fostered a rapid learning culture, according to the research announcement.

Group Health has applied the learning health system to several innovations, including patient-centered medical homes, prescribing practices of long-term opioids for chronic non-cancer pain, shared decision-making so treatments comply with patients' values and preferences, studying high-end imaging to limit unnecessary use of these tests and value-based benefit designs.

To learn more:
- read the Annals of Internal Medicine paper
- see the Kaiser Health News article
- check out the research announcement